More about companies in this post: Amazon - Apple - eBay - Facebook - Google - Microsoft - Yahoo

Mega Data Centers

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.

Some of the technologies that are drive these mega data centers:
- modular containers that can hold 1000+ servers, along with their power and cooling
- replacement of tradition chiller cooling with lower-energy technologies like water-based evaporative cooling or air-side (free air) cooling
- new power schemes ranging from demand-based dynamic voltage/frequency scaling to high-voltage DC power distribution to proprietary UPS technology.

It is unclear how or when these technologies will migrate beyond the mega data center niche. Some, like sophisticated trade-offs between running hot racks and equipment failure, only work in data centers with homogeneous ICT gear and cloud-type operations that allow for hot-swapping overheated units with service outages. On the other had, air-side cooling - use of the cooler air which surrounds most of the world's data centers most hours - is an widely underutilized option.

Company Facility PUE Status
 eBay Jordan, UT-USA 1.4 Target set 2010.05
 Microsoft Dublin, Ireland 1.25 2011.04
 Microsoft Chicago, IL-USA 1.22 target set 2009.06
 Microsoft Quincy, WA-USA 1.15-1.2 2011.04
 Google all 1.12 Trailing 12-month avg. 2013.04
 Google best 1.08 Trailing 12-month avg. 2013.04
 NCAR Cheyenne, WY-USA <1.1 Target set early 2013
 Yahoo Lockport, NY-USA 1.08 target set 2010.09
 Facebook Prineville, OR-USA 1.08 2011.11

Mega-Datacenter PUE

Mega data centers can be the focus of tax and regulatory controversies.

Smaller data centers can obtain impressive PUE numbers, too. Interxion's Stockholm data center uses seawater cooling among other tactics to obtain a 1.09 PUE.


Update: 2012.05.21
Apple's Maiden data center promises to use 100% renewable energy and has many efficiency features, but the company is not publishing a target PUE.


Update: 2011.05.12
eBay describes the features of its Topaz datacenter in Utah: "…everything is running at 400V. This means we lose an entire level of transformers and deliver 230V to the servers. That’s a 2% efficient gain through the entire electrical system…a 400,000 gallon cistern which collects rain water and will be used as a our primary cooling source…a water side economizer, which allows us to use the outside air to cool the data center for more than half the year instead of running expensive chillers…technology that will dynamically match the power used by the pump and fan motors to the cooling loads ensuring we only consume the energy needed to support the compute load…fully contained hot aisle design that isolates the heated air from the cold air…closely coupled cooling units (in-row) to add additional capacity where it is needed…we can put anything anywhere and still ensure it meets its optimum cooling efficiency even with a mixed workload. We can support racks that are less than 1,000 watts to dense racks that generate more than 30,000 watts of heat (more that an industrial pizza oven)." Topaz received LEED Gold status in November 2010.


Update: 2011.11.17
Facebook reports that its Prineville, OR facility it achieving a PUE of 1.06 - 1.1 in actual operation, with a mode reading of 1.08. The full load test at commissioning was 1.07.


Update 2013.05,01
More immediate than future targets are Google's quarterly online reports of "the PUE results from all Google-designed data centers with an IT load of at least 5MW and time-in-operation of at least 6 months. We've put the latest numbers in the table above. Google sets the standard in mega-data center transparency. The company also says, "we're currently using renewable energy to power over 30% of our operations."


Update: 2011.05.03
Microsoft reports, “The company’s Dublin facility maintains a PUE of 1.25.…Microsoft’s new, fully modular datacenter in Quincy takes the best practices gained from research and development further and maintains a PUE of 1.15-1.2, while reducing the typical datacenter construction time of two years by half."

Update: 2009.09.25
More on the Google/Belgium and Microsoft/Dublin mega data centers, which are both now online.

Update: 2009.06.29
Microsoft announced that its Dublin, Ireland and Chicago, USA data centers will come online in July. Current/potential critical power ratings are 5.4/22 MW and 30/60 MW, respectively. Microsoft is aiming for a "PUE yearly average calculated at 1.22".

National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)

Update: 2013.05.02

Moved to separate post due to the significant discussion about this facility and the additional information received.


Update 2010.09.20
Yahoo's Lockport, NY "Chicken Coop" is aiming for a PUE of 1.08.

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