CenturyLink’s Datacenter Progress

February 26, 2016 By Carl Weinschenk

Facebook data centerThe struggle of datacenters and other facilities to reliably and economically accommodate the exponential growth of data is perhaps the biggest story of the decade.

That challenge generates a lot of news. “When I started in datacenter energy efficiency, they used about 1 percent of world’s global energy, only behind primary metal reduction,” said William Gast, the Director of Global Data Center Energy Efficiency for CenturyLink. “That was 10 years ago. Now it is pushing 4 percent of the world’s global usage and it is expected to reach 10 percent. Efficiency is getting a lot of attention on the server side. We have to follow suit on cooling and to make sure electrical distribution to the servers is also is very efficient.”

CenturyLink’s Moses Lake, WA, facility opened in last May and supports 8 MW of IT load. The second phase, which was announced this week, will add 1.5 MW. The facility eventually will have the capacity to provide 30 MW to its customers. Much of the cooling is provided by the Columbia River. The high desert climate affords the facility free air cooling and low power usage effectiveness (PUE).

Gast told Energy Manager today that the energy results have been good. “It’s early in the operation and we are at only a 5 percent load on the facility,” he said. “Our current PUE is at 1.6, which currently puts us in the top 25 percent of data centers in the US according to EnergyStar. Once we get to 30 percent load, we are expecting to be at a PUE of less than 1.3, which would put us in the top 1 percent of data centers in the US.”

CenturyLink is not the only datacenter company making news. During the past couple of weeks, Microsoft announced a datacenter sustainability chief, Access Floor Systems’ AisleLok was approved for sale to agencies of the federal government and Phoenix IO announced that it is building a new datacenter that will be completely powered by renewables.

Microsoft Names Sustainability Chief: Microsoft—which has made datacenter efficiency news recently with Project Natick—this week named Jim Hanna as its Director for Datacenter Sustainability. Hanna had been the Director of Environmental Affairs for Starbucks.

This is the equivalent of creating a cabinet level post for datacenter sustainability. Datacenter Knowledge made the point well:

…Microsoft has created a new role, dedicated specifically to data center sustainability. Not corporate sustainability, not energy strategy, not data center strategy, but data center sustainability.

IO Data Center Expanding: In mid-February, The Phoenix Business Journal reported that IO Data Centers LLC is planning to build a three-story datacenter next to its existing facility during the next six to eight years. The company, the report said, has bought nine acres of land. IO’s approach is to build efficiency by modularization. The new datacenter, according to executives quoted in the story, will use 100 percent renewable energy.

AisleLok Gets GSA OK: The approval means that AisleLok will available to contractors through the U.S. General Services Administration’s online ordering system. AisleLok is an airflow management system that is designed to optimize data center airflow and, according to the company, increase cooling capacity and thereby reduce costs. The press release says that the system can provide as much as $50,000 in annual energy savings for a 20,000 square foot data center. The savings estimate, which the release says was the result of a computational fluid dynamics study, is achieved by eliminating exhaust air recirculation under equipment racks.

The bottom line is that despite the efforts, the industry so far is not winning the battle. “We’re facing a huge cascading effect of the Internet of Things,” Gast said. “People talk about the cloud as there is some place somewhere that has that stuff. It is not a hardware-free environment. The data has to find a home somewhere.”

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