How to Build a Green Datacenter

How to Build a Green Datacenter



Conventional wisdom dictates that something better for the environment will cost more money, both in overhead and overtime. If your company is a coal-burning power plant or an automobile manufacturer, that conventional wisdom may still be true. But if your business is in a datacenter crunch and its energy bills cost more than its IT hardware, environmentally friendly solutions can save your company piles of money in the long run. What can your company do now to turn its data green?




1. I'm looking for an existing green datacenter to serve my company's data. What are my options? Just outside Denver, in an abandoned NASA satellite signaling station, the Red Rocks Data Center has converted NASA's old satellite dishes into solar collectors that track the sunlight, making them 30 percent more efficient than stationary solar panels. The RRDC, through its "adopt a dish" program, offers the power from one of these dishes to be routed directly to power data in your racks using NASA's underground tunnel system, for $55,000. By adopting the dish, the RRDC cuts your company's hosting fees by 50 percent.

Affordable Internet Services Online., located in the Mojave Desert, was built as an environmentally friendly datacenter from the ground up and now hosts more than 15,000 Web sites from companies all over the world.

ThinkHost, in an attempt to out-green the competition, plants a tree for each new client of its 100-percent solar- and wind-powered datacenter.

Several companies claim to be the "first" datacenter powered 100 percent by solar energy. It doesn't matter which company was first or second, as long as it hosts your data with the latest in green technology, as does Greenest Host, which bills itself as the "world's first and only 100-percent solar-powered" datacenter.

2. My company hosts all of its data on-site and can't think about building green from the ground up. How can green technology help us reduce costs? If you haven't done it already, your datacenter is bound to be in desperate need of virtualization. By creating an abstraction layer between your server hardware and your operating systems, virtualization software — such as that from VMware — your company can cut its hardware and energy needs by 85 percent.

After your company has virtualized its servers, it can work to power more efficient machines with solar power of its own.

You don't need to live in Denver or the Mojave Desert to use the sun to trim your energy bill, you just need to live near a Home Depot. To calculate the potential savings of installing solar panels on your company's rooftop, visit BP Solar International Inc.'s Savings Calculator.

3. My company is about to invest in its own off-site datacenter. By planning green from the start, what can we do to manage our power needs? If your company is ready to take a big step and build its own datacenter, it's time to think like Google. It doesn't make sense to build a datacenter in a metropolitan area with high energy costs. It's best to look around the region for a location with cheap, renewable energy and ready access to unused fiber-optic cable. This dream-come-true location was once The Dalles, Ore., but it's hard to know how much dark fiber it has left.

Other places known to attract datacenters include Council Bluffs, Iowa and Lenoir, N.C. Although these may not be the tourist spots your IT staff had been hoping for, no one is going to build datacenters in New Orleans or Miami.

When your company has settled on a location, it should keep a green eye on the hardware it buys. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) doesn't have Energy Star ratings for data servers yet, but that's certainly down the road. Until then, you can buy Energy Star-certified appliances for all your other datacenter needs, such as desktop computers and cooling systems.

Because the EPA has dragged its feet in certifying efficient computing machines, a group of utility companies decided to do it for themselves, creating 80 Plus, an energy rating for qualifying desktops and servers that run at 80 percent energy efficiency, whether they are burdened with 20 percent, 50 percent or 100 percent of processing capacity.


Next Steps


Once you've determined how to green your datacenter, it's time to consider the best eco-policies for the rest of your business.

When you throw out your old computers and servers, don't trash them; instead, recycle the hardware.

Your business can cut energy costs by pumping in daylight instead of using the light switch with ultrareflective solar tubes that bring sunlight indoors for free.

Finally, hiring an outside company such as Egenera , which has been selling virtualized datacenter systems since 2001, to help design your datacenter from the ground up could save your company 50 percent in energy costs.

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