My Perfect Green Data Centre (2) – Storing Energy

My Perfect Green Data Centre (1)

This is the first of a number (I don’t know how many) of posts on how I’d set about building the perfect green data centre (and “green” doesn’t refer to the colour of the paint).

First, a little about me. I’m an Uptime Institute Accredited Tier Designer (no 1837), and one of the very few ATDs who has an IT rather than an engineering background. I started my career when I was thirteen, soldering together brick and bat tennis games. Within a year, I’d graduated to a 6502-based Commodore PET, and have been hooked ever since. After a patch of software, I rekindled my hardware roots and moved into IT infrastructure. I’ve assessed dozens if not hundreds of data centres on behalf of my clients, I’ve moved clients in and out of data centres, and I built the Arabian peninsula’s first Tier-4 data centre (though it never was certified).

I live and work in South-East Asia. Most of SE Asia is under-serviced with data centers, but a sixth the Earth’s population lives here. Therefore, lots of data centers are waiting to be build. But SE Asia presents challenges that are not present in North America or Europe. Supernap, for example, have huge campuses in Reno and Las Vegas. But there, the temperature and humidity is within ASHRAE A3 limits for nearly every day of the year – what cooling they need, can often be provided with fans.

In SE Asia, in the tropics, it’s either chucking down rain with humidity in the 90%+ range, or it’s the dry season and temperatures soar through the 40C mark. So the trajectory that’s been taken in the developed world, although it can be made to work, won’t produce optimal results. Given just how many data centers are likely to be build in the next decade, and the enormous potential for them to be nasty and polluting, there’s an urgent need to re-think how we build them.

The industry as a whole is well aware of green concerns. But most of those come down to energy efficiency. The IT load is taken as given, and the focus is on minimizing the load around that, mostly cooling. This leads to the standard industry measure of efficiency, the Power Utilization Efficiency or PUE. The industry is aware that there’s more to it than that, but has yet to come up with benchmarks that include how clean the power is (coal-generated electricity being the dirtiest and renewables the cleanest), or the carbon footprint of building the data center itself.

So my concern is broader than PUE. I am concerned about:

  1. Energy efficiency
  2. Source(s) of the energy
  3. Minimizing the use of substances that have nasty environmental effects

And this, within the context of providing predictable availability in a secure environment.

I hope this blog will not become another guy spouting off into the void of cyberspace. I’m open-sourcing my ideas in the hope that someone out there – Tim Cook? Mark Zuckerberg? – hears of them and decides to build one of my perfect green data centers. I’d like to give them the best possible, and for that, I’d love feedback, improvement and, above all, corrections.

A final point. I do not claim that my ideas are original in the sense that no one has had them; that I am the first to have them. Where I find that someone else has had the same idea, I will attribute it. All I claim is that the ideas here are original in the sense that I had them independently.


About Chris Maden
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