Greening the data center: Tips and thoughts

Today I’ve been reading What’s New In Data Center Building . While some of these aren’t exactly new, I’ll talk about some of the better ideas and integrating them into other green techniques I’ve discussed here before.

One of the things I’ve been strong proponent of is DC power distribution in the data center. Among other things, this eliminates multiple power wasting AC-DC conversions, as well as reducing heat inside the data center. The article recommends the switch to LED lighting, which is a good idea by itself, but it’s even a better idea in a DC powered data center.

Use of traditional lighting sources in the data center are going to require either separate AC power or inverters to change the main DC power back to AC for the lights. Since LEDs are natively DC powered, no conversion back to AC is required to operate right from the data center’s main DC power. In addition to simplifying things, this avoids more power wasting AC-DC conversions, as well as reducing the heat inside the data center (LEDs give off little to no heat), reducing the requirements for cooling!

The next suggestion is to carefully control airflow. This is always a good idea but is very important when combined with the free air cooling I’ve talked about before. A purely convection cooled data center isn’t likely, but the idea is to move the maximum amount of cooling air with the minimum amount of energy. Take advantage of the natural movements of both inside and outside air and be careful not to allow the cool intake air to mix with the hot exhaust air! Where you do have to use energy to move the air around, careful airflow control will get the maximum benefit from that energy.

On the issue of backup power, I don’t think any data center is likely to deploy its battery strings in an environment unprotected from extremes of heat and cold. The big thing to keep in mind about flywheel UPS systems, the type recommended in the article, is that flywheels have an extremely short carry through time. If anything happens that the backup generator doesn’t start immediately, you won’t even have time to know there’s a problem, much less react to it, before the lights go out.

Combine the best of ideas and see how green your data center can be!

Vern, SwiftWater Telecom
Data center, web hosting, Internet engineer


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