Lawrence Lab data center image

Best Strategies For Low Carbon Data Centers

Lawrence Lab data center imageBest practices such as using the most energy efficient equipment, consolidating applications and masking the identity of servers from its users will enable higher utilization of each server’s computing capacity and a lower carbon foot print for data centers, says an article published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Data centers consume huge amounts of energy and account for up to 2 percent of the world’s electricity, so they have been the focus of efforts to reduce their carbon intensity, however successful climate change policies need to focus not just on financial incentives to lower carbon footprint but also on reliable metrics to assess true carbon emissions, say researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Stanford University and Northwestern University.

Assessing the carbon intensity of a data center is not easy and there are many metrics in circulation today, so policy makers need to ascertain which metrics will actually help define a low-carbon data center, says one of the authors, Arman Shehabi.

In addition to best practice efficiency, tapping renewable energy will also help lower carbon footprint, but the authors caution that inefficient servers will end up consuming a lot more of renewable resources, so following the best practices to boost efficient usage is key.

The researchers suggest data centers should also be located in areas with cool outside air. The “free cooling” of appropriate climate zones reduces the need for mechanical cooling, and electricity use.

A few IT companies have already implemented some of these ideas. Facebook has located its latest data center in Sweden, to take advantage of its cool Nordic air and in addition, will also use hydroelectric energy to power the data center in Lulea.

Google recently opened up about its previously top-secret data centers, sharing 5 best practices to boost data center efficiency. Energy Manager Today guest columnist John Collins highlighted those practices in an April post. Tracking power usage effectiveness, managing air flow, turning up the thermostat (instead of believing it needs to be maintained at 70 degrees Fahrenheit), relying on free cooling and optimizing power distribution are Google’s recommendations, says Collins, who is with Eaton’s Data Centers.

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