Smartphones have made high-definition video and photography available to almost anyone, resulting in an endless growth in new data that must be stored and recorded for future access. This has significant implications both for the costs of operating a data center and the environment.
As the consumer market for electronic products continues to grow, businesses continue to expand their storage and data retention requirements.
Today, there are millions of servers running worldwide on a daily basis. Often these are being upgraded and managed, but they are not always being used. It is estimated that these unused servers cost billions every year. This could be a major waste of money, as well as a waste of precious energy.
Green data centers have recognized these wastes and worked to repair them. Many companies are now more conscious of their carbon footprints and are contemplating what sustainable data centers can offer.
The Importance of Green Technology in Data Centers
New data storage requirements do not necessarily denote a linear relationship in hardware requirements. The effects of new storage requirements multiply down the line, as modern retention policies usually demand reliable backups that are easy to access. All of this new data must be secured, cooled, and transmitted effectively. Upgrading data centers can also mean expanding physical space for new racks and other equipment—all of which must be lit, cooled, and secured as well.
At present, even small data centers consume large amounts of energy. Operating a server farm, fans, consoles, monitors, lights, and cooling systems all day, every day, requires large quantities of energy.
Since data centers require high uptime, many systems run continuously regardless of usage. Redundant systems designed for improved reliability and security also consume large amounts of electricity in their own right.
Reducing the Environmental Impact of Data Centers
Reducing energy consumption benefits the environment and provides economic benefits to the data center operator. With the continuously rising cost of energy, energy-intensive industries are always looking for new ways to reduce their overhead. Data center owners are no different. Modern data centers lower their costs in various ways.
Ever increasing technological development mandates modern data centers to use new equipment. Newer equipment is not only more capable, but also more energy efficient. Older equipment that may not have been energy efficient to begin with will degrade over time, thus increasing its energy consumption.
In a data center that may be using 10 or 15 MW with new equipment, even minor equipment degradation can result in a tremendous upswing in power consumption.
Using Less Energy with Virtualization
Virtualization is the latest trend in the push for data center efficiency for numerous reasons, one of which is energy consumption.
With virtualization, information technology staff can control the equipment in a virtual machine operated at another location. This results in a reduction in need for basic creature comforts common to data centers, such as a suitable ambient temperature and adequate lighting. Without these concerns, virtual data centers can operate at higher temperatures with a reduced energy footprint.
Ambient temperature may not sound like a substantial factor in the energy costs of operating a data center. However, energy costs drop significantly with relatively minor increases in operating temperature. Operators of large data centers that have seen substantial reductions in energy consumption from operating a higher-temperature data center include Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Intel, and Sun. In particular, Sun saw a four percent reduction in energy costs by increasing the temperature of its data center by a single degree.
Virtualization also allows for multiple pieces of software on the same server. This often can combine up to a dozen servers into one. This, again, will lower costs for the user storing their information at that facility.
Turning Off Unused or Dead Servers
When a company partners with a data center, it provides a specified amount of storage it requires. From there, the data center will allocate adequate space.
Typically, a data center will allocate additional space to prepare for expansion later down the road. This is often done automatically, not by request from the customer. Though this provides room for customer growth, it also creates dead server space until that expansion occurs.
Estimates show that up to a fifth of all servers are sitting idle. These idle hardware pieces will still consume power and other resources, costing both the data center as well as the customer.
Green data centers turn off these dead servers. This lowers energy consumption, and thus, costs, which is reflected in lower customer fees.
Delaying Capital Expenditures
One of the reasons data centers cost so much is that the data center has expenditures for power use estimates. Green data centers eliminate this excess spending by using power on demand.
Continuous monitoring and analysis allow environmentally-conscious data centers to only use the amount of power they need. They do this rather than increase power capacity that they may not use for several months or even years. Furthermore, green data centers use specialized tools that allow them to reclaim unused power. They can use this power for different applications within the facility.
Green data centers may have elevated fees to start, but in the long-term, they are more efficient and cost effective. Since they are energy-conscious, these facilities will consume less power. This, in turn, means less overhead. This is very beneficial for the user who is looking for an affordable, eco-friendly data storage option. Green facilities offer the same amount of power, bandwidth, security and storage as facilities not operating in “green mode.” The only difference is they are able to do so without leaving a hefty impact on the environment.
Finally, to provide much of the energy necessary to operate standard data centers, many large data centers use banks of diesel generators. Venting the exhaust outside reduces the air quality in the surrounding area. Virtual data centers and dark data centers draw less power from the surrounding community and waste much less energy in normal operation than conventional data centers.
So if you haven’t switched to a green data center yet, what are you waiting for?