The growth of data centers and their carbon footprint, due to the energy requirements to run both the servers and air conditioning needed to cool them, is becoming a growing concern around the world. A data center is a building that stores computer systems and associated devices. A carbon footprint is described as the amount of greenhouse gasses, especially carbon dioxide, emitted by activities of an individual or company over a given period of time. (Webster’s Dictionary) Data Centers currently represent 1. 5% of all electric consumption. Energy engineering) The demand for storing and processing data, which has grown more than 50% annually in recent years (mckinsleyquarterly) is the attributing factor to the growth of data centers. With this demand, more data centers are not only increasing the quantity of servers but these server are also running hotter due to rising processer counts, increasing chip densities and the implementation of blade servers. All of this in turn, increases the demands on the air conditioning units to keep the servers cool, creating more electricity usage.
For every kilowatt hour needed to run the server, another is needed to cool them. (Scientific American) Companies have strong motivations to reduce their carbon footprint. Every kilowatt hour saved is one less that has to be paid for, and with the average server using somewhere in the range of 450W of electricity (8,678 kilowatt hours annually)( http://www. vertatique. com)savings can add up quick. According to an International Data Corporation (IDC) survey 21. 8 percent of IT executives have power and cooling to be there number one challenge and Data center space was their third.
Reducing energy consumption and freeing up data center space can be easier that you would expect. John Felton, CIO of Sprint, said “We found some applications and servers that just weren’t being used. Some applications were running, and no one was doing anything with them. They just left them, and they were consuming power and resources. ” The subsequent clean up retired 127 applications, removed or redeployed 2,239 servers, freed up 291,042 gigabytes of storage space, and saved the company $30 million in energy, hardware, software and maintenance fees in 2008. (http://www. martertechnology. com)
Virtualization is one way companies can reduce their energy consumption and in the process, reduce carbon footprints. In this process, companies use virtualization software to allow one physical server to run multiple virtual servers inside it. This is beneficial to many companies as it allows them to do with few servers that once required many. Hewlett-Packard consolidated their 86 data centers over the world to only 3 with 3 backups by implementing virtual servers. (Digital Diet. Biello, David, Scientific American, 00368733, Apr2008, Vol. 98, Issue 4)At Credit Union of Colorado, server vituralization helped lower data enter space requirements while making IT more efficient and leaner. (incredible shrinking data center, john Edwards) By reducing the amount of servers, companies can also reduce the costs to run the air conditioning needed to cool those servers. It also provides a secure atmosphere to run untrusted applications. Companies have also looked into using renewable energy sources to supply energy needed to run their data centers. The three main types of renewable sources are solar, wind, and hydro power.
While they still may be generating electricity, less carbon monoxide is released since coal is not being used to create the electricity. Solar energy uses the power radiated from the sun and converts it into heat or electricity. Along with solar energy, companies are using hydro power in helping to run the air conditioning units needed to cool data centers. Water collected from lakes and the oceans can be used to cool fresh water run through a building’s closed pipe system and spent water is returned to the source to start the cycle over. (http://www. eesi. rg/water_tech) Companies can also use wind power to eliminate the coal burning electricity needed to run their cooling systems. Other major companies are coming up with innovative ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Facebook is working with Sweden to build a 300,000 square foot data center 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle close to the city of Lulec, Sweden.
The 120 MW of energy required to run the data center will be supplied by renewable energy provided by hydropower stations on a nearby river. (http://www. oregonlive. com/silicon-forest/index. sf/2011/10/facebooks_arctic_data_center_w. html) Another company would like to do away with the air conditioning units entirely. Hardcore Computer Inc. has developed a blade server using their liquid submersion cooling technology. The servers are completely submersed in the companies Core Coolant that is 1,350 times better than air, by volume, on removing heat. This design eliminates all cooling fans for the servers and the requirement for dedicated data center air conditioning units. (http://www. datacenterknowledge. com/archives/2010/05/05/liquid-blade-submerged-blade-servers)