Green Data Centers: Good for the Environment and Business
by Blake Wetzel
We celebrated Earth Day this week, but for many organizations, supporting the environment isn’t just a one-day affair. That’s because companies have learned that by taking steps to go green, particularly when it comes to the data center, they are helping protect the environment — and in the process, their business.
Why is the data center an important place to look to when greening an organization? For one, an estimated 2 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions come from IT sources, studies have shown. Additionally, replacing an old server with a more energy efficient design could save up to 1 ton of carbon emissions, according to Intel.
Then there’s the consumption consideration: Data centers use about 100 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, nearly 2 percent of the nation’s total electricity consumption. Just a 10 percent improvement in data center efficiency would save more than 6 billion kilowatt-hours a year, enough to power more than 350,000 homes.
Finally — and this is a biggie — there’s the cost impact. Because data centers consume so much electricity, their increased demand leads to higher utility bills. And the more servers in a data center, the more heat is produced. So not only must businesses pay for the power to run the servers, they also have the costs associated with cooling the data centers, such as air conditioning, fans, and ventilation systems.
These factors have prompted a rise in the green data center market, with spending expected to reach $45 billion by 2016, according to Pike Research. Some notable examples of successful green data centers:
■Apple’s data centers are completely powered by renewable energy that the company is buying through the wholesale market.
■Iceland powers its data centers from natural, renewable sources.
So, how can your company start taking steps toward achieving a green data center? Here are four ways to start:
Adopting LEED standards for the buildings that house your servers can help reduce your data center’s impact on the environment. For example, your building envelope can be designed to reduce the heat impact and absorption of the sun on your building and data center.
You can help your servers reach their fullest potential through virtualization software, which aids the environment by allowing applications to run wherever there is room for them, and using fewer servers to do the same amount of work. The smaller amount of servers can decrease energy consumption up to 40 percent.
Data centers need to be cooled. But how they’re cooled — with sophisticated systems that get the most out of air flow, and that allow fan speeds to be adjusted so the motors operate at a high efficiency — can go a long way in helping the environment. Using new cooling techniques could realize your business up to 95 percent in energy savings.
How your data center is performing, and how it can perform more efficiently, can be monitored and analyzed by software. Your organization can use these results to learn where to focus efforts to achieve greater efficiency. And don’t forget, there’s always the option to work with a third-party data center provider that’s already incorporated these tactics so you don’t have to.
What other ways have you incorporated green technology into your business?
Blake Wetzel is vice president of sales for the CenturyLink Channel Alliance.