Over the past few years, the issue of power and cooling costs for data centers has moved from being an afterthought to the forefront in the minds of IT administrators.
Businesses are seeing as much as half of their IT budgets being spent to keep the facilities powered, cooled and lit, according to Duncan Campbell, vice president of worldwide marketing for Hewlett-Packard‘s Adaptive Infrastructure business, and that ratio is not improving, thanks to greater density in the data center and the rising cost of energy.
“It’s a big number … and it’s growing,” Campbell said in an interview.
The drive to reduce power and cooling costs-fueled both by internal needs and by pressure from the federal government, which is looking to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels and promote green energy-is giving rise to business efforts within IT vendors such as HP to help enterprises design more ecofriendly data centers.
“Sometimes people are extending the life of their current data centers, and other times we’re helping them build their next-generation data center,” Campbell said. “The incentive to attack [these power costs] is very much driven by how much [of the] budget is being spent on them.”
Campbell and HP Enterprise Services Fellow Ed Kettler, a green IT strategist (HP Enterprise Services was formerly HP’s EDS services business), recently pointed to four examples of businesses using technology to make their new or existing data centers greener. Two of these facilities belong to HP customers, while the other two HP adopted when it bought EDS in 2008 for $13.9 billion.
Power Loft, which builds facilities that other businesses use to house their data centers, is using a two-story solution in building a 220,000-square-foot facility in McLean, Va. The two-story model-recommended by HP Critical Facilities Service and delivered by EYP MCF-segregates the power and cooling infrastructure from the raised-floor environment, a move that lets Power Loft scale out the IT environment while optimizing the flow of energy and cooling to the equipment, Campbell said.
The result is that the facility can accommodate 50 percent more racks and twice the power capacity of comparable Tier 3 data centers, and also uses 70 percent less critical power. The design will save Power Loft $10.5 million in annual electric costs, with projected savings of $350,000 per megawatt of critical power, he said.
Those benefits garnered the data center the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Managed hosting provider Opus Interactive is upgrading its IT environment with HP’s ProLiant G6 servers-including blade systems-and LeftHand P4000 SAN (storage area network), as well as server virtualization technology from VMware, to improve the capacity of its Portland, Ore., data center.
The result is that Opus Interactive can host 29 times more servers per rack-about 1,200 virtual servers per rack-while cutting power consumption in half, Campbell said.
Opus also is using 100 percent wind-generated power supplied by Portland General Electric, and has installed motion sensor lighting to help reduce consumption, he said.
How HP Enterprise Services Cools Its Data Centers
HP Enterprise Services, in doubling the size of one of the data centers it got in the EDS deal to more than 400,000 square feet, put in a host of ecofriendly features. HP put a reflective material on the roof to deflect heat from the sun, and installed a backup cooling system that will save the company several million dollars, Kettler said. In addition, a chilled water storage tank that can hold up to 800,000 gallons lets the facility run for up to 8 hours without having to use the chiller/cooling plant, he said.
The company also made other changes, including replacing many of the T connections in the water pipes with new pipes that run at 45-degree angles, which reduces the amount of energy needed to move the water through the pipes. It also reduced the environmental impact of the construction and operation of the city, including setting up a water retention program through the use of trees and shrubs, he said.
The building now has a PUE (power usage effectiveness) score of 1.6 to 1.7, Kettler said. The PUE metric was created in 2007 by the Green Grid consortium to measure the energy efficiency of a data center. The score is calculated by dividing the total amount of energy in the data center and dividing it by the power that reaches the IT equipment. The closer to 1 the score is, the better. Typically, data centers in the 1990s would have had a score of 2.0 or more, Kettler said.
HP Enterprise Services also is turning a building initially meant to house a distribution center into a data center. The Wynyard data center is in Newcastle, England, next to the North Sea, and HP is using the frigid coastal winds to help keep the data center cool, a technique called free air cooling.
“It’s cold and windy in northeast England,” Kettler said. “We can take advantage of that.”
The cold air outside is directed into a room inside the building, where it’s mixed with air from inside the facility. The cool air is then fed into the cold aisle flooring in the data center and moved through the equipment, and the warmer air is exhausted through the back, Kettler said.
Eventually some of the warmer air is released outside, while the rest is reused.
The result is energy savings of about 40 percent compared with typical data centers, Kettler said. It also helps gives the Wynyard a PUE score of 1.16, he said. The free air cooling system takes advantage of outdoor temperatures about 97 percent of the year, enabling the data center to forgo using the chillers. If the weather outside is too hot, auxiliary chillers are brought online.
Other green features include angling light inside the data center at a 45 degree angle to the servers, which improves the lighting. The use of light-colored racks and white paint on the walls also helps reduce the amount of lighting needed, saving about $7 million a year, Kettler said.
HP also is putting reflective material on the Wynyard building’s roof, and is capturing rainwater to be used for landscaping and fire fighting purposes, he said. In addition, 10 percent of the energy used in the data center comes from wind-powered sources.
The result of all this is the reduction of megawatt hours from 27,5000 to 20,000 per year, and reduction of CO2 production from 17,500 to 8,770 metric tons, giving a smaller carbon footprint.