A new tool from the Green Grid helps businesses determine whether they can use air outside of their data centers, aka free cooling, to help keep systems cool and reduce energy costs. Users plug in a ZIP code and other variables related to the power and cooling of their data centers to determine how much money they can save using outside air. As data centers become more packed with smaller and more powerful chips and systems and as the global recession forces businesses to slash budgets, IT administrators are looking for cheaper and more efficient ways to cool their facilities.
The Green Grid consortium is helping businesses look at another tool for
reducing the costs of cooling their data centers: the air outside of the
The Green Grid on April 9 unveiled a free online database tool and maps
designed to help data centers determine if outside air-also known as free
cooling-can be used to drive down the rising costs of cooling data centers. The
Grid tool can be accessed here.
Power and cooling costs are a key concern for IT administrators who are
under pressure to increase data center performance while cutting budgets. With
smaller and more powerful servers and processors being packed into data
centers, the cost of keeping the technology cool is increasing.
The Green Grid was created in 2007 to push for greater energy efficiency in
data centers and other computing ecosystems. Board members include chip makers
Advanced Micro Devices and Intel, OEMs IBM,
Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Sun Microsystems, and EMC,
Microsoft and APC. The group has more than
Click here to read about the Green Grid's efficiency metrics.
To use the free cooling tool from the Green Grid, users in the United
States and Canada
enter a ZIP code and data such as local energy costs, IT load and facility load
to determine what kind of savings they can get from using the available outside
air to help cool the data center.
The tool also can be used to determine savings that can be garnered using
water-side economizers, or devices that use water cooled by a cooling tower. In
addition, Green Grid members will be able to look at a high-resolution
graphical map of free cooling throughout the United
States and Canada,
while nonmembers can get a low-resolution version of the map here.
Maps by specific ZIP codes can be obtained from Weatherbank, a
meteorological consulting company.
Roger Tipley, a Green Grid board member and an engineering strategist with
HP, said the idea of using outside air to help cool a data center is just now
getting attention. For example, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory,
which does research on the world's energy challenges, is considering building a
data center next to San Francisco Bay
to take advantage of the cool air in that area, Tipley said.
Using outside air to help cool data centers isn't possible in all parts of North
America, he said. In some places, the air is too hot, in others,
too cold, and in some the air is too dry. However, if free cooling can be
used-for example, if the air is too cold, hot air already being generated by
the systems can be used to warm the air enough for use-it is a benefit, Tipley
"If you can bring in air directly ... it obviously saves a lot of
money," he said.
The Green Grid's free cooling tool uses information from 2,186 weather
stations throughout the United States
and Canada, and
contains all hourly observations taken from 1999 to 2008. The count of hours is
then divided by 10-the total years of data-to come up with the total number of
hours available of free cooling per year. The numbers of hours will always
range between 0 and 8,760, according to the Green Grid.
This tool could be a boon for many companies, Tipley said.
"The majority of the world's major cities are along oceans, which
moderate the temperatures," he said. "Plus, it's humid, so it's a
Power and cooling costs also have changed the way businesses look at where
they're going to put their data centers. Where once the issue was proximity to
the main office, now companies are looking at such issues as getting closer to
"We used to always have them right in a room right next to us,"
Tipley said. "But with the Internet, who cares where it is, as long as you
have the security around it."