Want to go green like Apple, but don't have billions in the bank?

Cooling data centres without landing in hot water

More green, fewer greenbacks

But what if you aren't Google or Apple and don't have few billion dollars to chuck at a state-of-the-art facility? What are your options?

It is possible to power your data centre partly or completely by green power without having to make a massive investment. Hosting provider Memset has, for example, opened a new facility on Dunsfold Park in Surrey – a business park powered entirely by green energy, which gets on average 37 per cent of its power from the sun, delivered via the grid. You could follow Memset and find similar facilities or regional providers.

You could also source green suppliers. Digital Realty, a provider of data centre and co-location facilities, recently launched its Clean Start Programme, a commitment to renewable energy for clients who sign qualified leases with a term of at least 12 months.

“Some companies are looking at onsite power generation – solar panels or fuel cells – but onsite renewables will typically only supply a small percentage of your energy needs,” Digital Reality’s director of sustainability Aaron Brinkley warns.

If you want to keep control of your servers, tackling energy efficiency is a more realistic way to boost your green credentials.

Here, the focus for many is to push down their PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) a measure developed by not-for-profit organisation the Green Grid of how efficiently a computer data centre uses energy, now widely considered the de facto industry standard for performance measurement.

“It’s by no means a perfect metric but it’s the only one we have,” Peter Hopton, the founder of liquid-cooling specialist Iceotope, tells The Reg.

Got hot servers? Cooling zaps around 40 per cent of the data centre energy requirements, so this seems the obvious place to focus your efforts. “It’s the elephant in the room,” Hopton says. “Koomey’s Law states that computers are becoming twice as energy efficient every 18 months, but cooling is not following suit”.

Jack Bedell-Pearce is managing director of 4D-DC, a Tier-3 data centre in Byfleet, Surrey, with 280 racks installed on its 8,000 sq ft data floor. He believes 4D-DC’s aim to be the greenest data centre in the UK has touched a nerve with customers and employees alike. “It’s a point of differentiation and it also makes our staff feel really good about working here,” he says.

Improving the efficiency of air conditioning alone – specifically upgrading to an evaporative cooling system — boosted the amount of power dedicated to the technical load from 540kW to 800kW. “The technology around evaporative cooling is very simple but control systems are quite a bit more complicated than traditional systems,” Bedell-Pearce warns.

However, radical cooling is not without its complications. 4D-DC's upgrade means Bedell-Pearce had to invest in an Uninterruptable Water Supply for resilience, essentially several 10,000 litre tanks of water that top themselves up and allow enough water for two to three days in the event of a mains water loss.

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