Building the green data centre

Environment-friendly facilities allow companies to lower costs and boost eco-credentials

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Building the green data centre The use of solar panels to harvest energy and create artificial shade is the most common innovation seen in the region, according to Cannon Technologies.
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By  Georgina Enzer Published  September 18, 2013

Building a completely green data centre is a fantastic way for companies to dramatically shrink their energy costs and improve their green credentials.

Designing and building a green data centre is not just about what you put inside the building, but also about how, and where you construct the actual data centre. With the very high corporate power costs in the region, many companies are looking to shrink their data centre energy costs through the utilisation of more energy efficient equipment, better data centre design, and cooling methods that do not have to rely entirely on air conditioning.

Enterprises also need to be aware of developments in both data centre software and hardware that can reduce their energy costs and improve efficiency.

Constructing your data centre

Designing a green data centre is partly about the building and partly about the infrastructure inside the building.

“Here in the Middle East we have the challenge of very little natural shade and consistently high temperatures. The most common approach is to create artificial shade where possible. This is often done by using solar panels on the roof which helps to absorb the sun before it can reach the outer fabric of the building. Another option that is often talked about is building the data centre underground. This is not as simple as it sounds. If the data centre is part of a larger building, the area that is above ground acts as a giant radiator in the summer bringing heat to the data centre, rather than taking it away,” explains James Coughlan, business development manager, Middle East at data centre solutions expert Cannon Technologies.

In the region, outside air cooling is just not viable for most of the year, this means that companies need to develop more creative solutions to cool their data centre efficiently without using huge amounts of power.

“In areas where outside cooling is not available, then water-side economisers and close-coupled cooling may make more sense,” states Carrie Higbie, global director of data centre solutions and services at data centre solutions expert, The Siemon Company.

Regardless of cooling methodology, however, one must first determine the capacity needs of the space in terms of power to carefully plan the solution, according to Siemon. Whatever is chosen it should be scalable in both directions to accommodate the fluctuations in technology. Wasted capacity will undermine any attempt to be green and not enough capacity will limit the technology that can be deployed.

“Once the means is determined then it is important to determine the needs across the white space. In many data centres there is a need for extra capacity within the space, creating higher density zones rather than engineering the entire space for high density,” says Higbie.

Inside the data centre, the goal is to drive lower power consumption and meet green targets through innovative cooling, aisle containment and power efficient equipment and understanding the need to address specific sustainability and availability metrics before construction begins, is essential to ensure that performance requirements and operational benefits are weighed equally in the design of a green data centre.

According to Cisco, the inclusion of the latest sustainable technologies to support the facility’s infrastructure is an important first step in the design process.

“Through the use of photovoltaic technology and natural day lighting for the entire facility, the green data centre can maximise the use of renewable energy without seriously impacting the facility’s RoI. In addition, through the installation of efficient fixtures and implementing an environmentally friendly natural drainage system, we can make big steps to protect and conserve water,” says Scott Manson EMEA account director at network specialist Cisco.

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