Environmental sustainability matters. For proof, look no further than this: 59% of the Fortune 100 and nearly two-thirds of the Global 100 have set greenhouse gas emissions reduction commitments, renewable energy commitments or both, according to a report by David Gardiner & Associates. But it’s not just about the environment; it’s about the bottom line, too. Being efficient saves energy, which saves money.
In the context of the data center, efficiency is about using less – less energy and less water – and about getting energy for renewable sources (less pollution and water use per unit energy). At IO, we’re working hard on both fronts. Here are four ways that we’re working to maximize the energy efficiency and sustainability of our data centers.
1) Efficient buildings
Data center efficiency starts with how the building itself is designed, constructed, and operated. BREEAM is one way to assess whether a data center has been built according to sustainability best practices. The international standard “encourages designers, clients and others to think about low carbon and low impact design, minimizing the energy demands created by a building before considering energy efficiency and low carbon technologies.”
Earlier this year, IO’s London data center was awarded a “very good” BREEAM certificate. As my colleague Nigel Stevens, IO’s UK Managing Director, described it at the time, “The certification illustrates IO’s commitment to providing energy-efficient data center solutions for enterprises here in London, and throughout the world.”
2) Efficient data center modules
The modular data center is proven to be more energy efficient than a traditional raised-floor data center. In a side-by-side comparison of the modular data center at IO.Phoenix and the raised-floor data center there, the modular data center reduced energy waste by 44% – which translates into:
- 19% energy cost savings – annual savings of over $220,000 per MW of IT power load
- 1 million gallons of water saved per MW of IT power load
- 620 metric tons of carbon dioxide eliminated per MW of IT power load
Why is the modular data center so much more efficient? IO explores that question in depth in a recent technical paper (get it at https://www.io.com/portfolio/pue-faceoff/), but here’s the short answer:
Energy savings from the study are attributable to a few advantages of the modular design:
- It is inherently a higher level of airflow containment, with each module housing a much smaller volume of air per server than an open floor.
- The modularity allows for heterogeneity. A high density module can sit right next to a low density module and the cooling systems can cater to the requirements of each. In a shared raised floor environment, airflow, temperature and the associated energy required by the cooling equipment, is often dictated by the most stringent design requirement.
- The modules allow for higher utilization, since capacity can be deployed in an incremental fashion. This allows each system to operate closer to its optimal design condition, even as the data center is still growing.
3) Infrastructure management software to optimize decision-making
In its 2014 Magic Quadrant for Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) Tools, Gartner reported that DCIM tools help the data center achieve greater energy efficiency. “Energy cost savings alone are often enough to make a business case for justifying the purchase of DCIM tools, although these tools offer other benefits that are more difficult to quantify.”
DCIM enables visibility into and control of the operations of the data center. Each data centre module generates 700-1,000 different data points that allow for monitoring and control of operations including ambient conditions, power use and power quality, and auxiliary systems such as security and life safety. Elsewhere in the data center, the DCIM monitors the chiller, generator, switchboards and uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs). All of that information helps us to maximize operating efficiency.
4) Get energy from renewable sources
Earlier this year IO joined 24 other leading companies as signatory to the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles, which frame the challenges and common needs faced by large renewable energy buyers. As businesses face greater dependence on information technology (a significant consumer of energy) and increased pressure for environmental stewardship, cost-effective access to renewable energy is increasingly essential.
At IO we hope the Buyers’ Principles will help spur greater action to overcome the challenges that we, and many other leading companies, face as we work to procure clean energy to power our data center operations more efficiently.
Why are we working hard to boost data center energy efficiency and to establish mechanisms by which we can power the data center with renewable energy? It is in part because we care about the environment, and consider ourselves stewards of this planet we call home. But it’s also because it makes good business sense, and there’s no shame in that.