Green Data Center Arms Race

Cloud computing. Ooo ahhh, it’s the new buzz word for networks. So where is all of the data going when you send it to the cloud? From hosted VoIP phone systems to storing your favorite vacation photos, the information has to go somewhere.

Data centers house all of the hardware and software, servers and applications that make the cloud, websites and our virtual world alive. As all of our information is increasingly being stored somewhere else and the Internet continues to grow in size, data centers are being built en masse to keep up with the demand.

What you might not know about data centers is that they are one of the biggest polluters. The power requirements of the data centers can turn on the lights in whole communities or cities. Cooling systems to keep the servers at optimal operating temperature can take up a lot of resources. A lot of the servers’ hardware also remains unused, but sits idly by, pumping out excess heat.

green data center

An ironic example of this is presented in an article on National Geographic’s website. The article (see it here) talks about the University of Colorado’s National Snow and Ice Data Center, which monitors how climate change is affecting arctic landscapes. The center requires 100 kilowatt hours of fossil fuel power to process data and cool the hardware.

Cooling the data center through a huge air conditioning system is expensive and burns a lot of natural resources. Using the naturally cold Colorado air, solar panels and water cuts the utility bill and saves resources.

A recent article by Gigaom presents another interesting example (see that here). Desalination plants can take in seawater and pump out clean drinking water. The plant is essential for areas that have access to limited ground water, but the process requires a lot of space and an enormous power source. The water does come from deep in the ocean to prevent affecting underwater ecosystems, at least.

To offset the power requirements, the plant in this article has suggested: “hey, who wants to build a data center next to us?” The data center would use the cold, deep-sea water to cool its hardware. When the water reaches the desalination plant, it is partially warmed up, which makes processing the water much faster and more efficient. A win-win, “symbiotic relationship,” as the article suggests.

Facebook, Google and tech giants are fueling the data center arms race. With that, they are also leading the charge towards making data centers more resourceful and easier on the environment, whether that means changing the virtual landscapes or the buildings’ architectures. Recent federal regulations are also pushing data centers to become more efficient.

Want to read more about data centers? Check out this article by Data Center Knowledge, which talks about the enhanced customization options that are allowing “a lot more diversity within the modern data center.”

If your data center or servers are sending your business’ utility bill through the roof, contact TriTech. With all of these innovations, simply upgrading your old hardware can make a dramatic different.