Next-gen data centers raise their energy efficiency game
By Robert Goldfield and Diana Samuels, Business Journal Staff Writers
A new generation of data centers, including Facebook's in Prineville, are trying to best one another on their energy efficiency credentials.
Walking into a data center several years ago was like walking into a meat locker: They were heavily air-conditioned to prevent equipment from overheating. Today, you might not even need a jacket.
Increasingly, data center builders and operators are finding ways to run their data centers at warmer temperatures and use already present natural amenities, such as water and even the air from outside. Data centers have historically been power hogs, but now are seeing huge gains in energy efficiency as people realize that making them more efficient doesn’t mean sacrificing reliability or performance.
Energy efficiency is at the very top of the agenda for data center owners because of the amount of power the centers consume, said David Aaroe, executive vice president at Portland-based Fortis Construction Inc., which designs and constructs data centers nationally and internationally.
“I see innovation every day,” Aaroe said. But the most significant advance has been the ability to operate servers at higher temperatures than in the past. That not only requires less cooling, but also opens the door to using several cooling techniques that require much less power than the old-school mechanical chiller.
Besides consuming less energy, those technologies cost less to install and to operate.
Many newly constructed data centers deploy features that allow them to minimize use of air conditioners with air compressors, “one of the things that chews up energy,” said Mark Monroe, executive director of The Green Grid, a Portland-based multiple industry consortium striving to improve energy efficiency for information technology and data centers.
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