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Cool and green design is the way ahead for data centres

As the world’s digital information multiplies at head-spinning speed, it’s no surprise that over-loaded data centres are consuming huge amounts of energy.

Sometimes, the heat that builds up in a room crammed with power-hungry servers causes system failure: Microsoft was given a costly reminder of this last year, when it experienced a 16-hour Hotmail and Outlook outage.

Data centres and EU climate change targets

The energy used by data servers, and what this means for Europe’s carbon reduction target, has caught the attention of The European Commission.  Its light-touch Code of Conduct on Data Centres’ Energy Efficiency is likely to get a good deal tougher.  Through its current requirement for signatories to submit energy usage measurements, the Code is making IT directors realise that their existing arrangements are often inefficient.

The USA seems to have similar problems: a survey by the New York Times found that data centres can waste more than 90% of the electricity they take from the grid.

Tackling the costs and energy demands of cooling can go a long way, perhaps starting with room design: the layout of the servers should take into account the fact that temperatures in two corners of the same room can be very different.

Free and mechanical air cooling

For those seeking a new cooling system, potentially the best solution – especially in the UK climate – is free outside air cooling.  Without constantly-whirring compressors, the cooling equipment’s lifespan is extended and maintenance costs reduced.  Most importantly, energy is saved and CO2 emissions cut.

Thanks to recent technological advances, mechanical cooling can be just as highly efficient, especially if combined with best practice on the part of data centre managers – such as allowing servers to idle when online demand slackens (and so avoiding the need to have air conditioning units maintain a constant ideal temperature).  A containment strategy based around the existing set-up can bring benefits that include preventing the mixing of hot and cold air that generally leads to wasteful ‘hotspots’.  Cold aisle, ducted hot aisle and row-cooled hot aisle are three possible energy-saving containment solutions.

Transcool’s team can help you find and design the right solution depending on your server space and business needs.  Contact the team on 01903 733911 to discuss your requirements.