Seven Design Considerations for a Green Data Centre

by : Wolfgang Jaegel

IT departments are under increasing scrutiny and pressure to deliver environmentally-sound solutions. Large data centres are one of the most significant energy consumers in an organisation's IT infrastructure, so any measures that you can take to reduce this consumption (and therefore also carbon dioxide emissions) will have a positive impact on your organisation's environmental footprint.

The construction and operation of a green data centre involve advanced technologies and strategies, for example

- Reducing the power consumption of the data centre
- Minimising the footprints of the buildings
- Maximising cooling efficiency
- Using low-emission building materials, carpets and paints
- Installing catalytic converters on backup generators
- Using alternative energy technologies such as photovoltaic electrical heat pumps and evaporative cooling

The consumption of energy is considered the dominant - and often the only - factor in defining whether or not a facility is green. IT executives therefore need to start investigating alternative ways of building energy-efficient data centres.

By following these seven simple steps, IT executives can come closer to achieving their vision of a green data centre:

Seven Simple Steps

1. Think green
Environmental concerns are front of mind throughout society today, and you can also take a 'green' attitude towards your data centre, both in terms of current state and also future planning. Also, many data centre vendors and service providers are providing green alternatives - factor these options in when negotiating new contracts and planning upgrades.

Incorporate the green vision in your planning - your future will be impacted by legislation, standards and market demands in this area.

2. Virtualise and consolidate
A virtualisation and consolidation project is often a step in the right direction towards green computing. Research indicates that a server often only utilises between 5 and 15% of its capacity to service one application. With appropriate analysis and consolidation, many of these low utilisation devices can be combined into a single physical server, consuming only a fraction of the power of the original devices and saving on costs, as well as taking a step towards a more environmentally-friendly data centre environment.

3. Design a best practice floor plan
Adopting an alternating hot aisle/cold aisle layout is optimal and can correct many cooling problems in a typical data centre. By implementing a hot/cold aisle layout, equipment is spared from having hot air recirculated and thereby eliminating risk of an outage through device failure. Also, by having a common hot aisle, you have the ability to contain areas where heat density is high, such as racks with blade servers, and deal with the heat in a specific manner. This allows for multiple heat rejection methods to be in use within one data centre.

4. Use appropriate technology
In taking a green approach to your data centre, your evaluation of products is no longer just a price versus performance comparison. It is important to incorporate the total costs of the environment into the calculation, which then also includes costs for energy consumption.

5. Take a green perspective on ILM
Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) is the optimum allocation of storage resources that support a business. Every element of information in an organisation has a useful lifespan, and this can range from a voice conversation to certain legal and medical records. By implementing an ILM strategy, you have the ability to create greater efficiencies in data storage, which in turn lead to greater efficiencies in elements such as power consumption.

6. Investigate liquid cooling
To meet the challenges of blade servers and high-density computing, more organisations are realising the need for effective cooling and heat management solutions. Many are welcoming liquid cooling systems into their infrastructures to achieve better cooling efficiency, while others may find it difficult to fathom pipes of running water snaking through the plenums of their data centres.

7. Utilize greener energy sources
Many energy utilities are now offering greener options for customers, with power from sustainable sources. For example, in the United States, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has formed the Green Power Partnership, which encourages and assists organizations to buy green power and reduce their impact on the environment. Major economies in Asia have accepted the Kyoto Protocol to control carbon emission however only Japan has committed to a reduction by 2012. The awareness on social responsibility and opportunity to save operational cost has raised the bar on awareness and willingness to adopt a more green approach towards utilities.