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Jul 11, 2014

The Case for Data Center Water Conservation

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Data center water usage and conservation is a critical aspect of green building design and environmental sustainability. Most data centers use large amounts of water for cooling purposes in order to maintain an ideal operating temperature for servers, hardware and equipment. But how do water conservation efforts affect the cost and operational efficiencies of a data center?

While 70% of the earth’s surface is covered in water, only 2.5 percent is fresh water, most of which is currently ice. Historically, the demand for fresh water has increased with population growth, and the average price has risen around 10-12 percent per year since 1995. In contrast, the price of gold has increased only 6.8 percent and real estate 9.4 percent during this same period.

So how much water do data centers use? While the average U.S. household uses 254 gallons per day, a 15 MW data center consumes up to 360,000 gallons of water per day. As the cost of water continues to rise with demand, the issue becomes one of both economics and sustainability.

How are Data Centers Addressing the Problem?

In order to control costs in the long term, data center operators are finding creative ways to manage water usage. Options include using less freshwater and finding alternative water sources for cooling systems.

  • Reduced water usage—Designing cooling systems with better water management, resulting in less water use.
  • Recycled water—Developing systems that run on recycled or undrinkable water (i.e., greywater from sinks, showers, tubs and washing machines). INAP’s Santa Clara facility was the first commercial data center in California to use reclaimed water to help cool the building.
  • No water—In some regions, air economizers that do not require water can be used year round.

Challenges

While using less freshwater provides long-term cost and environmental benefits, alternative solutions also create new challenges. The use of recycled water can have negative effects on the materials used in cooling systems, such as mild steel, galvanized iron, stainless steel, copper alloys and plastic. Water hardness (measure of combined calcium and magnesium concentrations), alkalinity, total suspended solids (TSS – e.g. sand and fine clay), ammonia and chloride can cause corrosion, scale deposits and biofilm growth.

Data center operators must proactively identify susceptible components and determine a proper water treatment system. Implementing a water quality monitoring system can provide advanced warning for operational issues caused by water quality parameters.

With the rising cost and demand for freshwater, conservation measures are essential to the long term operations of a data center. Internap is committed to achieving the highest levels of efficiency and sustainability across our data center footprint, with a mix of LEED, Green Globes and ENERGY STAR

certifications at the following facilities:

 

To learn more, download the ebook, Choosing a Green Colocation Provider.

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Dec 10, 2013

More data center IT equipment to be Energy Star certified

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gren_grass_power_outlet_300x150Energy Star just released its new guidelines for certifying data center IT equipment. Although no products have yet to be noted specifically by the government agency, this move shows that the organization is being more proactive in regard to data centers. For companies looking to make their facilities more environmentally friendly and obtain LEED certification, this is welcome news that should shape future procurement strategies.

In particular, Energy Star will now be inspecting and certifying data storage devices. As this type of IT equipment becomes prevalent in conjunction with the rise of big data, the role of storage will grow within data center environments. By applying its energy usage standards and seal of approval to storage arrays, Energy Star is acknowledging this hardware’s new role in the enterprise, making these certifications critical for data centers striving to become more environmentally friendly.

Energy Star is a joint initiative between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. The organization is one of the biggest names in the energy efficiency field, and their green stamp of approval carries a lot of weight for consumers and enterprise procurement strategists.

Calculating the Real Cost of Green Certifications
Companies are under pressure to make sure their data centers are as eco-friendly as possible, as reports released over the last few years paint these facilities as energy hogs. Uptime is the top concern for any IT department, but environmental standards and electricity usage are a close second.

“Online storage systems are designed to be on all the time and use approximately 80% of their peak energy capacity while simply idling their spinning drives,” the government agency stated. “Additionally, most storage products exhibit a characteristic power/performance curve with increasing efficiency up to some size, then a drop off after passing their optimal peak. The ENERGY STAR specification recognizes products that perform well around this peak point, so labeled products perform near their optimal peak. The specification also requires the use of energy efficient power supplies and power consumption reporting. It promotes the use of capacity optimization methods and adaptive active cooling where appropriate for end users.”

Not only will using Energy Star-certified IT equipment allow data centers to significantly reduce annual electricity bills, having this IT hardware in place will make it easier for a facility to achieve LEED certification. Created by the U.S. Green Building Council, the various tiers of LEED certification serve to signify just how eco-friendly a data center or other building is. While the state of the IT equipment inside a data center is only one of the many factors the GBC takes into account, having energy-efficient hardware will go a long way toward helping the facility achieve this goal.

“LEED certification, which includes a rigorous third-party commissioning process, offers compelling proof to you, your clients, your peers and the public at large that you’ve achieved your environmental goals and your building is performing as designed,” the National Resources Defense Council noted. “Getting certified allows you to take advantage of a growing number of state and local government incentives, and can help boost press interest in your project.”

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Sep 27, 2012

A dirty cloud making you feel guilty? Opt for green data instead.

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green data

This week there was a lot of chatter on our social media channels on green data centers after the New York Times published a report that kept many of us awake at night. This report left many consumed with guilt and remorse at the idea that most data centers, by design, consume vast amounts of electricity from the grid.

Spending on cloud infrastructure has doubled to $4 trillion since 2005 and with the rise of big data, energy efficiency and environmental issues are becoming significant factors that add to the purchasing equation. More and more users demand almost immediate response times and reduced latency, putting many businesses at risk if they fail to meet the expectations. This high maintenance relationship leaves us with the need to find the right infrastructure; one that is both reliable and consistent, while keeping environmental considerations in mind.

Understanding power consumption and addressing the growing need for green data center services appears to be a challenge, however, feeling guilty is never part of the solution – acting smart and educating oneself is part of it.

Smart companies such as Internap are constantly leading the way in innovation by implementing leaner technologies that process power and energy sources with sensitivity. Since it’s more and more difficult to find blameless activities these days, I recommend you become more demanding with your data providers and learn more about their sustainable construction practices.

We are very open and forward about ours. After all, two of Internap’s data centers have been recently awarded with “green” accolades. The Dallas data center received a LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED is one of the primary rating systems for the design, construction and operation of energy-efficient buildings. A Gold certification is given for buildings that are designed and constructed with sustainable concepts and practices that substantially reduce the building’s impact on the environment. It was also the First data center in Texas to receive a Green Globes Certification following a detailed review process by the Green Building Initiative (GBI). Green Globes helps commercial building owners advance environmental performance and sustainability through a rigorous online assessment, comprehensive site visit, and an evaluation by an independent, third party evaluator.

Other encouraging news comes from Internap’s Santa Clara data center which ranked 65 on the InformationWeek 500 List of Top Technology Innovators for green achievements. In the construction of its Santa Clara data center, Internap implemented cutting-edge efficiency practices that deliver major operational benefits and align with its corporate commitment to utilize green data center design techniques, wherever possible, in both new and expansion projects. The 36,000 square-foot Santa Clara facility houses a variety of sustainable elements, including green power, renewable energy becoming the first commercial data center in the U.S. and the first non-governmental building in California to receive the Green Building Initiative’s Green Globe® certification, a green building assessment and rating system. Earlier this year, the data center was also awarded LEED Silver certification and received Silicon Valley Power’s 2012 Energy Innovator Award. These initiatives, among others, reflect our approach to innovation and commitment to sustainable construction practices and significant reductions in energy.

Next time you lose sleep over how environmentally friendly you really are, think beyond composting and recycling. Learn how your data is hosted and how it is managed.

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Jun 19, 2012

Winning innovations in engineering and energy

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Winning innovations in engineering and energyYou might not know it unless you have worked in a data center on a daily basis, but a lot goes in to the day-to-day maintenance of these places. I recently got a chance to visit our Santa Clara and Dallas data center facilities and let me tell you… there are checklists for checklists, 24/7 staff, alerts and security  — it’s an intense regiment to keep up. But what’s more is the design and planning that went in to making sure everything works together in perfect unison — for example, keeping the environment at just the right temperature to house equipment, ensuring the humidity level is correct for optimal performance and making certain the right power infrastructure is in place so there is no downtime. Not to mention adding the complexity of sustainability requirements on top!! Whew! Some masterful engineering is definitely taking place here, which is why I have to give a huge shout out to all those involved in helping us earn Silicon Valley Power’s 2012 Energy Innovator Award.

Our Silicon Valley data center earned this year’s award, which recognizes one organization annually that exhibits superior efforts in supporting energy efficiency and renewable energy. Santa Clara Mayor Jaime Matthews presented our team with the award at the 12th Annual Energy Summit, organized by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and held at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA.

An independent panel of judges named us the winner of the Energy Innovator Award for successfully implementing a wide range of conservation strategies at our Santa Clara data center. Here are a few of the most notable initiatives our first class team implemented to help us achieve this honor:

  • Reduced overall energy use by 49% as compared to similar building types and earned a perfect score of 100 from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Performance Rating System
  • Saved 76,300 gallons of water per day and 27,849,500 gallons per year (the equivalent of 46.5 Olympic-sized swimming pools of potable water annually!!)
  • Reused more than 99% of the exterior structural components, avoiding the diversion of nearly 85% of its construction waste to landfills
  • Utilized high-efficiency lighting, HVAC systems and controls to decrease power consumption by more than 30%

Congrats again to everyone that helped make this award possible! You guys rock!

Interested in Silicon Valley colocation? Learn more by reading the green data center profile on our Santa Clara facility.

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