Mission-critical facilities for IT are certainly getting bigger, but does that mean they are ecologically friendlier too?
As size goes up and power consumption and heat generation go too, it might be optimistic to think that, in absolute terms, data centers had a lower impact on the planet than before. In relative terms, however, technologies are making it possible to become greener in several ways.
Greener Power Generation
Data centers providing mission-critical facilities need uninterrupted power.
Interestingly, some independent, low-carbon footprint sources also have excellent capabilities for protecting data centers from the hazards of power station outages or power line damage. Large DC players are already powering some of their facilities from renewable energy sources, such as the wind and the sun.
As data centers worldwide already use over 30 billion watts of electricity (enough to power 30 million toasters!), the better the supply, the greener the supply.
Smaller Power Appetites at Mission Critical Facilities
Better still, if each data center uses less power while still ensuring availability and performance, the effect on the environment will (relatively speaking) diminish further.
Power and cooling of IT equipment are two big factors. IT equipment can save on power (and therefore on cooling) by:
- Virtualization. Applications are shared out between servers in a group, reducing the total number of servers and offering mission-critical advantages in terms of overall robustness and availability.
- Storage. Hard disk size and speed can be selected to balance performance and power savings. Smaller disks can save on electricity without compromising performance. Slower spinning disks save on power too. Flash memory avoids the issue altogether.
- Network adapters. They can be greener by consolidating more ports onto fewer adapters and avoiding over-dimensioning port speeds. Consolidation works to reduce power consumption for storage adapters too.
- Power-Efficient Processors. By no means new, but still a source of power savings, built-in management lets processors run more economically in idle mode.
Some data centers are located in the Arctic because the ambient air temperature is low enough to provide cooling without recourse to additional solutions.
However, just like power savings, reducing the need to cool DC facilities is even better.
Good cooling designs that channel air properly save money on cooling and avoid the overheating problems that are the bane of mission-critical facilities in the first place.
These designs must be updated with each internal reconfiguration of a data center as system room dimensions change and hot aisle and cold aisle locations with them.
Better Management is the Key
Data center technologies and equipment already allow greener operations, many of which enhance overall availability and performance.
The next challenge is properly managing those resources, both at the time of initial construction of facilities and throughout their lifecycles and changes afterward.
Some governments are also effectively pushing DC builders and operators to get greener. For example, in the UK and Japan, total power consumption is limited for a given building, whether it houses a data center or any other facility. But with an estimated potential of a 40% reduction in power consumption in data centers generally, a little prodding from administrations could work out for critical apps and all the others.
How do you see mission-critical facilities getting greener? Share your favorite green strategy in the Comments below.