If you have ever visited a data center, you have to agree that they are pretty cool. They are cool literally and also figuratively—which is why they are energy hogs. With all those servers storing critical data from around the globe, data centers have to stay cool—a power outage will not do much for a data center’s clientele or its owner. The Environmental Protection Agency estimated that in 2006, the United States’ data centers consumed about 61 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity at a cost of $4.5 billion. Next year, those figures could rise to 100 billion kWh with a price tag of $7.4 billion. And as even more data becomes digitized while firms shift towards cloud computing, those numbers could still rise. Energy efficient servers could help data centers and their clients or owners reduce electricity consumption, but should energy costs spike, firms dependent on data storage could take a hit.
This week Yahoo opened its data center in Lockport, NY. Titled the Yahoo Computing Coop, or (YCC), the facility is similar in design to other buildings in western New York. Dubbed the Yahoo Chicken Coop, the data center actually resembles a chicken coop—it’s a series of long buildings with angled roofs that allows for maximizing use of the winds that come from nearby Lake Ontario.
The Coop is a winner for several reasons: its shape permits a constant natural air flow, limiting the data center’s energy needs for cooling to only about 1% its annual consumption. Yahoo claims the Lockport center will use 40% less energy and 95% less water than conventionally-designed data centers. Unlike most data centers, the buildings contain no chillers, making a huge difference in both energy and water savings. Such savings are enough to fund 9000 households, or over 1 million laptops for a year. Most of the power comes from nearby Niagara Falls; the region’s cool climate helps to reduce energy consumption as well. Another reason for its efficiency was its construction time: from the ground up, it only took 10 months to complete.
If you are a Yahoo user, chances are your favorite services will be supported here, including the company’s Mail, Messenger, Flickr, and Finance. For folks in Niagara County and the surrounding area, the Coop will also provide much needed jobs in a region that needs them.
For Yahoo, the energy savings should pay off in the long run; and its Coop could set the standard for future data centers—notably for building them where the climate makes sense for hosting such facilities, which makes a difference in their efficiency.