Green data center
The industry has been striving to green data centers for some time. Here are some of pioneers from 2002 through 2009.
Seventeen manufacturers offer ENERGY STAR® qualified servers. CompuLab, SuperMicro and Toshiba are the latest. Bull and Wipro appear to no longer offer qualified models.
Much Green ICT focuses on computers: servers in the data center and desktops in the office. Don't forget that disk-based data storage, which can cost an organization $25/GB/month, also offers opportunities. Here's a look at the progress manufacturers and users have been making in recent years to manage data storage's energy consumption. The storage capacity of the United States National Security Agency's (NSA) new data center in Utah is a powerful reminder of the role storage plays in ICT facilities.
Most ICT gear - core facilities, communications infrastructures, and edge devices - runs on DC power. Converting AC to DC within a building is inefficient, on-site renewable power generation is usually DC to begin with, and super-efficient LED lighting is also DC. So DC power distribution has been a attractive option, but there have been vigorous arguments for and against. Recent events suggest the tide is turning in favor of DC distribution, although skeptics continue to press their case. The growing use of solar-generated electricity might be providing the latest boost DC.
Image courtesy IEEE Spectrum
The NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center (NWSC) in Wyoming "provides advanced computing services to scientists studying a broad range of disciplines, including weather, climate, oceanography, air pollution, space weather, computational science, energy production, and carbon sequestration. It also houses a landmark data storage and archival facility that will hold, among other scientific data, unique historical climate records." It has also become of the focus our largest Twitter discussion of the 2013.
We've been tracking the growth in mega-datacenters since 2009. These faculties feature technical and operational innovation that has overturned previous notions of limits on energy efficiency. But does the focus on efficiency obscure an acceleration in ICT energy and water consumption and in CO2e production? While mega-data center operators are claiming exceptional power usage effectiveness (PUE) ratios, we're still talking about facilities that consume 20-200 MW apiece and emit a considerable carbon footprint unless powered by renewable energy. Here's our most recent look at their reported PUE and the technology behind them, including the addition of a government supercomputer center that highlights subtle issues of efficiency versus sustainability.
City governments can show Green ICT leadership. Paul Kronberger, CIO of Madison (WI-USA), a city of 270,000 residents, tells me the municipality has taken these steps to improve the sustainability of its own operations.
What is a battery? A device to store energy and convert it to electricity on demand? This is an important question as ICT facilities and infrastructure elements increasingly rely on sophisticated battery-based systems such as UPS. Potentially greener alternatives are emerging to chemical batteries, with flywheels appearing to have the most momentum for ITC facilities going into 2013.
Let's start by reviewing the role energy storage devices play in ICT. A 2011 APC white paper lists three applications:
Verne Global continues to publish useful information about why customers value green data centers. Automobile manufacturer BMW is the latest customer profiled by the company.
Microsoft has announced plans to spend $5.5 million to build a zero-carbon data center pilot project in Wyoming. A source of very low carbon electricity is key to such projects. Microsoft's power generation fuel? Municipal sewage!