PTS: Blog

What is your definition of a “Green” Data Center solution?

Is your organization looking for “Green” Data Center Solutions or are you looking to incorporate “Green” into your Data Center Design in 2010 or in this decade? Below are some thoughts on this important issue in regards to building “Green” Data Centers. We’re interested in hearing your opinions & ideas as well.

For the most part “Green” Solutions for the Data Center, is in my opinion a bit of an oxymoron, because most supposed “Green” solutions still have a carbon footprint & typically use power generated by fossil fuels in the Data Center industry. We also find that rarely are Data Center owners & operators willing to reduce availability to improve the efficiency of their Data Center. That being said, our design philosophy is to design “Greener” Data Center Infrastructure technologies where possible into any proposed new builds, renovations and upgrades for Data Center facilities.

In our opinion the 1st step towards “Greener” Data Centers is collecting accurate measurements & trending the environmentals in your Data Center facilities so we can model proposed changes & fine tune the efficiency. PTS has been running several monitoring & management tools in our own Data Center facility as well as in our clients Data Centers for several years. We use this base knowledge as well as industry best practices & PTS’ proven trade secrets during an engagement for design to propose “Greener” solutions where applicable & in line with the rest of the key design criteria for a project. In our experience many “Green” solutions such as solar & hydro power rarely can make a impact to a Data Center Design, however using water or air side economizers to take advantage of the free cooling days available in an applicable climate can provide a reasonable ROI while “Greening” the Data Center.

In addition by eliminating air mixing in Data Centers, we reduce the power consumed by the HVAC systems supporting a Data Center, and we prove these savings in cooling through CFD modeling before making investments. ASHRAE has widened the temperature range in the new TC9.9 recommendations for Data Center operations, but before we embrace this “Greener” standard and go maximizing the set points for supply & return air; we first must make sure that air mixing has been eliminated as much as possible because as we raise set points, “hot spot” issues & inefficiencies will be amplified, second raising set points reduces the availability of the Data Center so we have to make sure that any proposed increases in set point to make a Data Center “Greener” are in line with the availability requirements established for the Key Design Criteria of a project, third many servers fans will spin faster as the intake temperature rise so there is an inflection point where raising set points further will not continue to lower power consumption.

Focusing on effective Data Center capacity management is key to any “Greening” initiative:
• Better predictability of space, power, and cooling capacity and redundancy limits means more time to plan on ways to mitigate their affect
• Increased real-time availability of IT operations as a result of an enhanced understanding of the present state of the power and cooling infrastructure and environment
• Reduced operating cost from energy usage effectiveness and efficiency as well as operator effectiveness from the use of automated tool sets

In our experience most facility oriented “Greener” solutions provide only a fraction of the efficiency gains found in IT focused solutions such as: server consolidation, virtualization & data deduplication. That’s not saying we shouldn’t consider the facility oriented “Greener” solutions, especially if they fall in line with our design criteria & ROI needs, but it is saying we should focus on the IT side 1st because of the greater savings & our capacity requirements will be appropriately defined if we become IT efficient first.