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.
Airflow containment refers to the practice of segregating the aisles of a data center so the hot exhaust air from servers does not mix with incoming cold air, while also more efficiently directing airflow into or out of the data center floor. According to the Uptime Institute’s 2014 Data Center Industry Survey, only 30% of operators have at least ¾ of their data center using some form of containment. Less than half of all survey respondents had at least 50% of their data center heat contained.
That leaves a lot of white space without any form of containment, which is one of the best ways to improve energy efficiency and translates into a more reliable environment as well as direct cost savings.
Things have improved since a few years ago, to be sure. But airflow containment remains a significant upfront investment that data center operations teams might not consider, especially at smaller providers or in-house facilities. However it can show a real ROI.
What grabbed your attention the most in 2015? Our most popular posts from the year are below, along with a wrap up of the industry's biggest headlines.
This year didn't bring massive upheaval in the data center realm, but there was a fair share of news that caused ripples or at least garnered a lot of clicks and retweets. In the industry at large, big news included the Dell-EMC merger, telcos selling off data centers, and the Uptime Institute killing off tiers.
On our humble blog, our most popular posts covered Ubuntu VM optimization, CloudStack vs. vCloud, disaster recovery, and more. Read on for a full list of 2015's biggest data center stories.
Snapchats themselves are actually pretty small fish in the world of mobile data, with images using just tens of kilobytes and videos about 2 MB. But combined, social media activity and streaming media account for an insane amount of data use, which in turn has a heftier environmental impact than you might think. If current trends continue, a family of four will have the same CO2 emissions from their combined cellular data as they will from the family minivan within 3 years.
The electricity at stake isn’t simply charging your phone: when you send that Snap of your cat falling off the counter (which is admittedly pretty hilarious), it’s beaming over various paths through wireless networks that use a ton of energy to a data center that uses a ton of energy and back to those dozens of other phones.