Researchers Warn to Mitigate and Migrate Inland
While the data center industry continues to get greener, it also continues to grow. Alongside that growth comes significant CO2 emissions, which are widely acknowledged by the scientific community as a primary contributor to global climate change. As the Earth warms and sea levels rise, data centers near the coast could in fact end up underwater – and vital connectivity infrastructure is likely to be lost as well.
That’s the conclusion drawn by University of Madison-Wisconsin and University of Oregon researchers in a new study that takes a look at the effects of climate change on internet infrastructure. The study even goes so far as to suggest that mitigation and migration action should begin immediately in order to avoid catastrophic effects on the way we connect to the internet.
As we release our 2017 Sustainability Report, we wanted to see how the industry opinion on green data centers may have shifted over the years.
Back in late 2014/early 2015, Green House Data put out a survey for data center workers asking for their opinions on green data centers. We recently sent out a follow up survey and the results were surprising, to say the least. Read on to learn how the industry view of energy efficiency and sustainability in the data center has changed.
The Green House Data blog has hit a major milestone this month, rocketing from around 8,000 monthly unique visitors to 12,000 unique visitors in March. As we pass the 10k mark, we want to say thanks to everyone who has come to our little corner of the internet and also take a look back at our most enduring and popular posts over the years.
From cloud hosting to data center design to information security, the blog has covered a lot of ground in the past five or six years, with experts from our staff joining our marketing and content teams for weekly updates.
Here are the top 10 all time posts from the Green House Data blog.
Data centers are invariably focused on 100% availability, which comes down to reliability of power and various mechanical and electrical components throughout the facility. But energy efficiency is a major priority as well, even for data centers that don’t call themselves “green” or “sustainable”.
With electricity providing a bulk of the operating expense, any gains in efficiency can go a long way towards minimizing OpEx. Many data center efficiency measures focus on containment, cooling, and other measures within the white space, but critical power infrastructure can be a good target for efficiency gains as well.
Major UPS manufacturers often include an “ecomode,” or in the case of our Cheyenne data center, Eaton’s Energy Saver System (ESS). These modes can lead to efficiency gains of several percentage points, which sounds low, but in practice can lead to thousands of dollars of savings and carbon emission reductions in the hundreds or thousands of pounds.
Cryptocurrency is hot. Really hot. Enough that your layman uncle, who’s not exactly plugged into the technology scene, has picked up a few — plus a few altcoins just to hedge his bets. While he might just be having fun with a little gamble, there are others who are pouring thousands and thousands of dollars into specifically designed bitcoin mining servers, many of which are placed in data centers similar to those here at Green House Data.
The demand has helped to spike bitcoin to a value of around $15,000 USD per single bitcoin. It nearly reached $20,000 in December. But much like your Snapchats, each bitcoin transaction comes with its own environmental price tag. In fact, bitcoin mining may be the most energy-intensive activity happening in data centers today.
The Digiconomist has an ongoing tracker chart listing the energy consumption of the bitcoin network. It isn’t pretty. While these statistics are estimated, they currently sit at nearly 37 Terawatt-hours each year. That rivals many smaller industrialized countries' entire annual electricity consumption.
Data center containment is the practice of splitting the aisles of a data center into segregated hot and cold sections, depending on how each aisle is set up. For example, some data centers might have the front of their servers on the inside of the aisle, with fans blowing the exhaust outside the aisle. Others might have the front of their servers on the outside of the aisle, and vent heat inside the aisle.
Containment keeps the hot air exiting servers from mixing with the cold air coming in from the Computer Room Air Conditioning (CRAC), dramatically improving energy efficiency and also maintaining a more consistent temperature, which reduces the overall load on both air conditioning units and the servers themselves.
Green House Data uses full containment in our Cheyenne and East Coast data centers, but only recently implemented it in our Seattle, WA facility. This case study demonstrates how even a simple containment system can lead to significant energy efficiency improvements. We expect the system to pay for itself within the year, in part thanks to generous rebates from Seattle Public Utilities.
Green House Data released our first Sustainability Report last year, covering the calendar year of 2015. Our goal for this initial report was largely to set a baseline by which we can measure our environmental impact from year to year, as well as to maintain our goal of transparency as a company.
As we’ve written about many times before, the data center industry is not particularly environmentally friendly. We consume millions and billions of kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, which is our biggest contributor to emissions. But computing equipment also has a significant toll on the environment. We also consume quite a bit of water.
By focusing on energy-efficient design and operation methods like free cooling and aisle containment, data centers can reduce consumption. Green House Data goes beyond low PUE ratings and tries to be as green as possible throughout our operations.
How did we fare in 2016? Let’s take a look at some Sustainability Report highlights to find out.
While media reports are doing a great job of educating the public about the energy consumption of data centers – a subject that not many people might think about day-to-day – a recent study shows that even as data center loads continue to grow exponentially, their energy consumption has not grown at the same rate.
A recent Bloomberg article, on the flip side, indicates that investors are becoming wary of data centers due to their increasing water consumption, a hot button topic in popular data center markets like California.
The data center industry, in other words, dodges one efficiency and sustainability crisis only to step foot in another one.
For the past decade, Power Usage Effectiveness has been the most common standard to measure data center energy efficiency. While PUE remains in the news with recent controversy over its inclusion in the latest ASHRAE standards, other energy efficiency metrics are starting to catch on – specifically server utilization.
We’ve covered PUE before on the blog, but basically it’s the ratio of overall power used to power used for strictly computing equipment. The closer to a 1.0 ratio, the more efficient the facility.
As the industry has matured, PUE has come under fire as being too simple, easy to manipulate, or failing to consider other environmental concerns. This led to the development of other data center energy efficiency and environmental impact measurements and benchmarks, for renewable use, reeuse of energy, and even water consumption.
Can you believe we’re already over a quarter of the way through 2016? Feels like we were just posting our 2015 blog wrap up yesterday. But here we are—the data center world keeps spinning. In case you missed something in the past three and a half months, we’ve collected our top blog posts and some of the most popular data center news headlines from around the blogosphere in today’s post.