Let me preface this post with the obvious, I am not an engineer. But, it would be fair to say I’m green. So, consider what follows information sharing, but definitely not analysis. Other than, “Hey, what Cork Internet Exchange did is cool”.
I’ve always wondered if there was a green opportunity in data centers. Instead of expending all that energy cooling down data centers, couldn’t the generated heat be redirected for good, such as heating the building? Maybe not the best idea in Florida, but certainly applicable here in the Northeastern US.
Now, not being an engineer, I wasn’t sure if this was a really good question, or a really dumb one. But, since I’m more interested in learning than being right, when people talk of Green IT, I ask my question. This morning, on Twitter, I asked it of James Governor (RedMonk, GreenMonk). In response, James sent a link to a post about Tom Raftery’s data center redesign at Cork Internet Exchange. An excerpt follows, is mine.
“What was the design decision that makes all the difference at Cork? Well you see a normal data center has hot aisles (backs of servers) and cold aisles (fronts of servers), but the data center has an average ambient temperature based on convection and flows of these air streams. Indeed most data centers are pretty much designed and run with the ambient temperature in mind. So what did Tom and team do? They put a cork in it. They sealed the cold aisles, which means that when you walk into the data center you’re hit with a blast of 30 degree celsius air. For humans the temperature is very high, but where it has to be cold, it is. Which is pretty smart if you ask me. Of course this idea would never fly in America where humans can only stand a very small ambient temperate range between 65 and 70 degrees F. But in Europe I can certainly see some organisations trying something similar. To be clear- the data center heat is also used to warm the offices and hot water at cix. Says Tom: “Our central heating is powered by Intel”. The crack about Americans and air-conditioning above is a little unfair- after all- Cork has the native advantage of not being as hot as California, or locations where many US data centers are located. But still- it surely makes sense to concentrate on cooling machines rather than people when you’re designing a data center.”
For readers who are engineers, check out the details here. Perhaps my brother (an engineer) will explain it to me!
So, I’m (continually) curious. Are other organizations redirecting generated data center energy? What other creative Green IT initiatives are folks undertaking? Are these initiatives adding environmental and business value? Or, do you feel greenwashed?
James Governor says
the awesome power of analysis mediated by social networks and urls. you want examples? i’ll give you examples. today i found out that Hampshire County Council in the UK is building a new data center, with green thinking. They also plan to use heat exchange to warm buildings. they are working with the Carbon Trust. interesting times.
Thanks James. Found another another one, via an IBM press release. Now, where are the US examples?
“IBM and GIB-Services today announced a new energy efficient “green” data center at a former military bunker outside of Zurich. The new data center is a highly secure data storage facility where GIB will support its clients in Switzerland, and will offer a first-of-its-kind energy model where a direct heat exchange will take place between the data center and a public swimming pool in the town.
Located in Uitikon, Switzerland, the data center is expected to create 2,800 megawatts of wasted heat per year when operating at full capacity — the same amount of energy needed to supply up to 80 houses with heating and warm water for one year. In order to repurpose some of this previously wasted energy, the town is looking to the needs of local civilians — ensuring a comfortable temperature for swimming in the town pool.
“We found a partner for this unique project in IBM, a company that distinguishes itself through its vast experience in building high availability data centers with the highest demands on security,” said Hans-Rudolf Schärer, president of the board of directors, GIB-Services. “Our decision to collaborate with IBM was easily made given IBM’s data center expertise, innovation and commitment to green technology.”
“This is a great example of an innovative client solution that not only provides a client with a secure and energy efficient data center, but is also a technology breakthrough to benefit the town,” says Steve Sams, vice president of IBM Global Site and Facilities Services. “Theoretically it is possible to reuse up to 90 percent of the electric power required for the operation of the data center as heat energy. Through reclaiming the heat, approximately 130 tons of carbon emissions can be saved. This corresponds to the carbon dioxide discharge of mid-size cars driving 500,000 miles.”
The data center agreement was signed in 2007 and recently completed in the first quarter of 2008. The project to heat to the public swimming pool was signed in the first quarter of 2008 and will be completed in the next few months.”