2011: The Year Data Centers Turned Green  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

Wired has a look at the slow greening of data centres last year - 2011: The Year Data Centers Turned Green.

The amount of data the world stores is on an explosive growth curve. According to research outfit IDC, the digital universe will grow 44 times larger over the course of the decade, thanks to the rise of worldwide obsessions with things like social media and cloud computing. And that means more data centers.

But this data center boom comes at a time of high energy prices and heightened concern about carbon emissions. The days of cramming truck loads of servers into a room and firing up a bunch of industrial air-conditioners to cool them are over.

Data center operators are gaining control of their energy bills and earning green points by increasing data center efficiency, from server processor chips to warehouse-size buildings. There’s no how-to manual on building green data centers. The industry is feeling its way on energy efficiency — and no two data centers are alike.

Out of necessity, the huge Internet players — Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Yahoo, and Apple — are finding ways to use greener energy and get more out of the energy they use. Google has continued to earn praise for its energy and environmental practices, and Facebook is actually sharing its progress with the rest of the world. This year, it launched the Open Compute Project, encouraging the rest of the industry to exchange technologies and techniques for building efficient data centers.

2011 was a banner year for green data centers, with dozens of state-of-the-art facilities opening for business. Here, Wired takes a look at nine of the more innovative facilities that came online in 2011, rating each by Power Utilization Effectiveness (PUE), the industry standard measure of a facility’s energy-efficiency. PUE is ratio of all electricity a facility consumes to electricity used by the IT equipment it houses.

The ideal — 1.0 — means a facility’s lighting, power, and cooling systems consume no power and its power distribution system is perfectly efficient. Most data centers are in the 2.0 to 3.0 range, meaning ancillary systems and losses consume as much or more energy than the electricity used to run the servers, but the cream of crop have PUE ratings well below this range.

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