The Rise of Efficient Data Centers

With VMworld beginning in Las Vegas this week, we are sure to hear all about new and innovative ways to expand your organization’s approach to cloud computing.  “Project Horizon” was previewed at last year’s VMworld, a cloud-based management service that aims to establish a users cloud identity.  With Project Horizon and the seemingly thousands of other cloud projects occurring, the demand for massive data centers is on the rise.  As their need continues to grow, the immense power they use has become so much of an issue that metrics were created to measure how efficient data centers are.  One of these metrics is Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), a ratio of total amount of power used by the facility to the power delivered to computing equipment.  An ideal PUE is 1.0, which would mean the computing equipment is using all of the power coming into the facility.  However, a PUE of 1.0 is very difficult to achieve due to the need for lighting, cooling, and other various systems used in the facilities that are not considered computing devices.  An additional way companies are trying to reduce cost and power consumption is by building modular data centers.  The modular data center approach adds capacity as it is needed in manageable, cost-effective increments.  Below you will see five traditional data centers that use alternative energy as a power source, as well as a brief look at currently available modular data centers.

1.  HP’s Wind Cooled Data Center

HP’s wind cooled data center opened in North East England in early 2010.  The facility uses seven-foot wide low-velocity fans to draw in cool air coming in from the North Sea.  Much of the energy used by data centers is a result of cooling them, so having massive fans bring in naturally cold air to do the job will save HP millions of dollars. (Image Source)

2.  Facebook’s Solar Powered Data Center

Facebook’s new data center in Prineville, Oregon was designed from the ground up with efficiency and sustainability as main objectives.  Its use of solar energy, combined with other power saving methods, allows the facility to use 38% less power than Facebook’s existing data centers.  The solar power doesn’t power the entire facility, but does help cut down reliance of other non-renewable energy sources.  (Image Source)

3.  Verizon’s Fuel Cell Powered Data Center

















Verizon has earned the U.S. government’s Energy Star Award for its use of hydrogen powered fuel cells.  Opened in 2005, the facility pipes in natural gas to obtain hydrogen cells that are then combined with oxygen atoms to generate a direct current.  The only by-product when using this technology is heat and water.  When all seven of the center’s fuel cells are activated, they can generate as much as 80% of the power used at the facility. (Image Source)

4.  NTT America’s Bio-Gas Data Center
















Though not yet completed, NTT America has stated that they will install five bio-gas fuel cells in their California data center.  Bio-gas, a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide captured from dairy farms, is available to purchase from California utility providers.  Once the fuel cells are installed, NTT expects them to generate 500 kilowats of power, which is roughly equivalent to 500 U.S. homes. (Image Source)

5.  Microsoft’s Hydro Data Center













Along with being their first modular data center, Microsoft’s newest data center in Quincy, Washington uses hydro-electricity to help power the facility.  The power comes from nearby dams on the Columbia River, which is also used in various other data centers in the area.  Similar to their Quincy facility, Microsoft also has a data center in San Antonia, Texas that uses a recycled water system. (Image Source)

Modular Data Centers














As mentioned above, modular data centers are an attractive option due to their ability to add capacity in manageable, cost-effective increments.  They are often built within a compact container that is easily transported to a desired location, resulting in a huge reduction in the upfront costs typically associated with building a data center.  HP, Cisco, and IBM have all created modular data centers that they aim to sell to a anyone from new start-ups to established companies looking to expand.  Modular data centers are also a much greener approach.  The HP POD, for example, has a PUE of just 1.25, making it much more efficient than traditional data centers. (Image Sources 1, 2, 3)


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