What Makes a Data Center Green?

There is an inclination from the public at large to assume that internet technology is green automatically, but that isn't necessarily the case.
From: Alex Summers
September 16th, 2013 | 0 Comments

When we think of Internet technology, there is an inclination from the public at large to assume that it’s green automatically. That because commerce happens over the web, it is somehow cleaner and will leave a smaller impact on the environment. For some industries, that may be true. No doubt the world could do with fewer CD cases and software boxes, but for other industries the impact is minimal compared with the changes that come with shifting business online.

Sure, you might cut down on the air conditioning you would use at a retail store or reduce power usage by not storing things in freezers and drop shipping them instead, but often times you’re displacing that usage. In the freezer example, you might not store the item but someone else does until you order it. Once you do, it must also be shipped to the recipient, which adds to your footprint in a way that having a local market would not.

So when Facebook and Google decided to green up their data centers and try to make a significant impact on the environment, they made some intriguing changes that will pave the way for future concepts.

Facebook in Oregon

When Facebook decided to become more transparent about how it handled data, one of its ideas was to detail plans for their green server rooms. The data center built in Oregon contends with intense heat in the region, yet manages to cool servers at a reduced footprint.

In order to cool the normally heated servers, outside air is pumped into the ventilation and cooled with purified water. The cool air then pushes down into the server rooms, forcing the hot air up where fans push it out of the building. It’s a bit like the way a swamp cooler works, running the air through water-cooled coils and then pushing the hot air out.

Facebook’s move to Open Compute servers also means that its hardware runs more efficiently and cooler. When you move from 30,000 servers to 180,000 servers, that’s a big energy savings in aggregate. That’s not all, Facebook also recently purchased a space in Sweden. The air there is so cold, the company just lets it in and cools the server room naturally.

Back in the States, it remains to be seen whether the Facebook model will inspire other data centers. In Dallas, Texas, a new colocation data center space claims to have the industry’s most reliable IP network, powered by on-site UPS and diesel generators.

Google’s Changes

Google is a little less transparent when it comes to their server rooms because of fears of compromising, but they do have information about their eco-friendly moves. For one, Google keeps its datacenters at 80 degrees Fahrenheit, which they say is a marginal difference from most server rooms and adds up to a large savings over time.

Their approach to cooling involves careful construction of air ducts. The ducts in Google’s centers separates the hot air from the cool air travelling through the server rooms. Like Facebook, Google uses purified water to cool the warm air. If you visit a Google data center, you can actually see the network of colorful pipes use and collect and conserve water as the center cools itself.

Eco-Friendly Data Centers

Data centers that are eco-friendly use less waste and tend to employ hardware that lasts longer. Up front, these costs are fairly large, but they offset themselves over time for server houses. Better hardware means less money spent on repairs. Long lasting hardware means more funds can be devoted toward upgrades and building better infrastructure. Data centers that comply with green standards also receive tax breaks, which help cover development costs.

If you want to lessen your eco-footprint with an eCommerce venture, choose eco-friendly hosting.