Simon Taylor is chairman of Next Generation Data, which is owner/operator of Europe’s largest data center facility, NGD Europe, located in Newport, South Wales..
Next Generation Data
The world’s most advanced and sought after data centers not only have to guarantee optimal space, security, power and connectivity but also ensure far superior environmental performance than their predecessors. In the face of an increasingly arduous regulatory landscape, a worldwide financial crisis prompting companies to do more with less, and operators under pressure to deliver optimized energy environments to satisfy demanding environmental expectations from customers, what steps can next-generation data centers take to ensure they benefit from a green infrastructure? The following article offers practical considerations and tips for meeting the standards of today’s sustainable data center.
Location, Location, Location
Rather than data centers located in busy urban areas, where costs are higher and security more difficult to manage, consider a more rural setting with vast amount of space, considerably lower rates and the kind of natural protection only an isolated location provides. Certain European regions, including Wales, are becoming increasingly popular data center locations due to their distinct advantages of lower than average seasonal temperatures (for free air cooling). In Newport Wales, where the NGD facility is located, the 750,000 square foot building connects directly to the super grid via its own substation, ensuring a massive 180 MVA of resilient power supply. That’s enough to power a city the size of Charleston, South Carolina.
Be True to the Cause
Power, cooling and energy management are critical to overall resilience and uptime. Demand for power and cooling within data centers will continue with the steady increase in processor power producing the effect of increasing heat. More usage of high-density server applications has also resulted in more intensive use of a given footprint and the consequent rise in energy consumption per square foot.
While many green-friendly data centers tout the efficiencies of their building’s interior energy systems and other green initiatives, at the end of the day they still rely on fossil fuels like coal as their original power source. Powering a total data center from 100 percent renewable energy sources requires a wholehearted commitment that begins with securing a long-term supply agreement with a renewable energy provider. In NGD’s case, we worked with SmartestEnergy, the UK’s largest purchaser of electricity from the independent generation sector.
It’s important to ensure your data center location meets all environmental certifications and rating systems like the International Organization for Standards ISO 14000 family that address various aspects of environmental management and BREEAM, the world’s leading design and assessment method for sustainable buildings. The widely recognized BREEAM rating system uses recognised measures of performance, which are set against established benchmarks, to evaluate a building’s specification, design, construction and use. The measures used represent a broad range of categories and criteria from energy to ecology.
Get Hot on Cooling
With cooling averaging 45 percent of total operating costs for many data centers, the sustained rise in electricity charges has spurred the search for new alternatives and solutions. These include water and liquid cooling as well as nano-cooling technologies and others on the horizon that could ultimately require certain older facilities to need complete re-engineering.
As well as being the most energy intensive, cooling is perhaps the most critical system within a data center. Aisle temperatures must be regulated 24 hours and day, seven days a week to ensure servers are kept in optimum conditions. To make your CRAC system as efficient as possible, install remote temperature sensors on each hall that can link to the CRAC system through infrared monitors. These sensors identify hot and cold spots, and where the temperature is naturally cooler, the CRAC system automatically reduces its focus on that particular area and concentrates on the sections that are warmer.
Free air cooling should also be deployed and enabled by channeling external air into the data halls to help cool the IT server racks. When outside ambient temperatures are sufficiently cool the electrically powered chill systems can be switched off completely or reduced, therefore cutting energy consumption significantly.
Monitor, Control and Manage from a Central System
Data centers have historically used separate management systems to control building operations such as heating and lighting, alongside individual systems for the UPS, generators, air conditioning and cooling systems. Consider the performance and management advantages of bringing these systems together under a single, unified platform – offering complete visibility into the building management system, the electronic management system, the PDUs and SCADA monitoring.
Such a system offers operators the ability to closely monitor energy usage throughout the facility from the building management systems through to the IT devices themselves, highlighting any areas of concern where consumption is running at unexpected levels. This can then be addressed quickly and efficiently, ensuring an optimised energy environment for keeping costs and carbon emission as low as possible.
Ongoing Evaluation and Education
Don’t overlook small, but high-impact initiatives like installing motion detectors and energy efficient lamps throughout the facility to ensure lighting is only utilized when absolutely necessary. Be certain to keep up on new technologies and advancements in sustainable energy and continuously evaluate non-carbon sustainability initiatives including biomass, wind, solar panels and fuel cells to ensure the data center meets the latest energy efficiency and environmental conditions.
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