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With groups like The Green Grid and Open Compute Project, companies are being encouraged to think outside the box when it comes to designing their next facility.
Eliminating energy waste from facilities is what every colocation provider is after. Groups such as The Green Grid and Open Compute Project are raising awareness through research and design; yet there are other equally important debates going in in our industry: what other types of energy sources can we use aside from electricity?
Renewable energy is on everyones list but not within reach for most data centers. Despite the up-front costs associated with green technologies our industry is doing a fine job to encourage companies to think outside the box. Natural gas, solar, hydro and wind power are all fine alternatives to using electricity to power our data centers.
A natural gas surplus has brought down costs significantly – and some companies have taken advantage of this. Datagryd generates electricity from natural gas to power its 240,000 Sq. Ft. Manhattan data center. Natural gas has other perks as well.
Datagryd also uses exhaust gases to drive a cooling system generator. Surplus power is on hand too – of which is sold back to city’s power grid. Using natural gas to power a data center is a pretty solid idea. Underground pipelines mean that gas can be delivered to a facility no matter what. Data centers that run on electricity are reliant on fuel. If you can’t get fuel into the data center (Think Hurricane Sandy Flooding), backup generators fail.
AOL has been experimenting with a portable data center that is free standing and roughly the size of a port-a-potty. Sitting on a concrete slab, the Port-o-data center features a closed-loop water system which is cooled by outside ambient air. Its small size means that a unit power source can be installed close enough to generate a PUE rating of 1.1. AOL stated that preliminary tests revealed no signs of weakness in regards to cooling and power efficiency. The downside? Port-o-Data centers are small and managed remotely, which makes them susceptible to damage from natural disasters. AOL says the port-a-data-center isn’t ready for production yet; An interesting idea nonetheless yet.
Thinking Outside the Box
Future data centers will run more efficiently than ever. With groups like The Green Grid and the Open Compute Project taking the lead, companies are being encouraged to think outside the box when it comes to designing their next facility. Facebook’s Prineville server farm is a perfect example of using water to power a facility, generate excess power back to city grids and reduce annual operational costs. Microsoft’s continues to experiment in Wyoming with its biogas waste-water facility. More R&D needs to be done but the message is clear: Our ability to think outside the box and leverage renewable energies will benefit everyone for years to come. We just need to get there; some of us already have.