Many progressive companies are expressing increasing interest in ways to establish their organizations as "green" by moving to environmentally friendly practices. IT can be an integral part of such a move, when it comes to transport, energy and other areas. While improving these areas might be second nature to some, few organizations were motivated in the past by green initiatives. But when the benefits of changing to greener products, systems and data centers are realized in terms of cost savings, brand recognition and public perception, organizations begin to sit up and take notice.
Studies have shown that an estimated 2 percent of the world's total CO2 emissions are a result of IT sources. This figure could be reduced if everyone would work together, but IT can support the greening of other processes as well. Data centers consume a lot of electricity and this demand leads to higher utility bills, which result in increased attention, concern and scrutiny from company boardrooms.
To understand savings opportunities in the data center environment, organizations must look at the building envelopment, IT equipment, virtualization software, building controls, cooling methods and HVAC equipment.
The U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the gold standard in building design. Optimizing the building envelope to reduce solar loading can minimize the impact of outside temperatures on data center operations. In particular, roof designs can significantly reduce the absorption of solar heating.
Many server computers run at less than 30 percent of capacity, which is more effective than your average desktop machine, but systems aren't often used to their maximum potential. If the amount of each processor is doubled, the number of devices can be reduced by half, resulting in a significant impact on the environment. Virtualization software is a common solution, enabling applications to run wherever there is room for them, thus reducing the number of servers needed to do the same amount of work.
Recent advancements in electronic equipment enable systems to operate at much higher temperatures than in the past. Accordingly, ASHRAE has altered its guidance suggesting that air intake temperatures can be significantly increased.
Data center efficiency can be significantly increased through the use of sophisticated building control systems to optimize cooling and air flows, pull in "free" outside air to supplement cooling and provide zonal lighting control. Additional HVAC savings can be achieved through the installation of variable frequency drives, which allow fan speeds to be adjusted to allow the motors to operate within their highest efficiency range.
Proper data center floor layout is key to efficiency. Server placement to form hot (exhaust)/cold (intake) aisles and proper placement of CRAH units, blanking plates, supply vents and returns can minimize the mixing of cold-delivered air with hot-exhausted air and assure that the HVAC system efficiency is optimized. Additional savings can be realized through the installation of curtains or other containment systems to further reduce the mixing of cold and hot air.
The advances in building and IT equipment technology, combined with the proper floor layout, allow the data center to operate at higher temperatures resulting in significant energy savings. Some organizations reuse waste heat for warming adjacent areas, thereby cutting the energy required.
While energy consumption and CO2 emissions reporting requirements vary significantly from country to country and state to state, it is important for forward-looking organizations to understand their output and set forth a strategy to reduce their carbon footprint. IT systems can play a role in helping measure and report those emissions and create a greater exchange of environmental information throughout the supply chain. Computer software can help analyze this information and help optimize data center management, factory operations and product design. By metering, monitoring, analyzing and reporting energy data and process flows, companies can identify where to focus remedial efforts.
Green IT Colocation Services
The best place for companies to start involves no measurement or groundwork. It's all about changing behavior. Following is a list of tips colocation providers and their clients can use to help deliver green, IT-based colocation services:
- Commit as an organization to sustainability, from the top down
- Make use of the many sources of publicly available environmental information
- Include lifecycle questions in requests for proposals (RFPs) and when researching the market
- Assure that all equipment is properly maintained to maximum performance
- Increase the temperature in appropriate areas of the data center
- Enlist CIO-level executives to be responsible for all computing energy accounting
Establishing a Corporate Environmental Policy
Savvis, which operates data centers worldwide, is working to reduce environmental impact using a thoughtful, balanced approach: data center design and operational excellence, promoting the use of highly-efficient, shared and virtualized IT environments, establishing benchmarks for continuous improvement and encouraging a daily practice of considering sustainability in the decisions that are made. A balanced approach means supporting the fitness of our business and that of our clients' organizations. Any sustainability effort must consider the quality of service offered to our clients and the value created for shareholders.
- Seek to build and operate efficient data centers
- Invest in service delivery models that provide highly-efficient IT solutions to our clients
- Pursue sustainability initiatives that reduce the energy and materials consumption of our organization
- Consider sustainability in terms of client value when establishing energy conservation initiatives
- Address and meet all applicable legal requirements regarding sustainability
- Monitor the results of our sustainability efforts
We firmly believe that we can take steps to reduce the environmental impact of our business and that of our clients by establishing standards in operational management and taking our clients with us on a path toward greater utilization. Our pursuit of environmentally favorable data center design and operational excellence, coupled with the promotion and use of highly-efficient virtualized and cloud IT environments through the concept of green IT will help us achieve environmental sustainability and benefit our clients, employees and the IT industry for generations to come.
Drew Leonard is vice president, colocation product management, at Savvis, a CenturyLink company.