Data centers (DC) are now rightly being identified by energy-conscious business leaders as serious contributors to an organization’s carbon footprint. Moore’s law and inexpensive high-performance computing come at the cost of higher power consumption and increased cooling requirements. These side effects directly drive higher energy consumption in data centers.
Alignment with, or certification from the U.S. Green Buildings Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program is increasingly being seen by thoughtful CIOs and data center managers as a necessity. However, while being extremely helpful in designing green data center facilities, LEED still does not help data center practitioners think beyond the green building.
Beyond Green Facilities
Organizations looking to reduce the carbon footprint of their data centers need to go beyond LEED in the long term. Lowering a data center’s carbon footprint is a multi-layered endeavor and needs to go well beyond the facilities layer. It needs to be a holistic effort that weaves together green efforts at the business process layer, the applications layer and the infrastructure layer:
Green DCs must be seen as part of the continuum of green opportunities that exist throughout the data center value chain. Those that link revenue generating business processes with enabling applications and hosting infrastructure. They must leverage and drive the renewable co-generation activities the organization is engaged in; essentially acting as an off-grid captive customer. Green DCs must also actively pursue avenues to migrate applications to low-energy platforms, adopt lower per-CPU energy consumption regimes and maximize the usage of passive cooling.
But even these measures will asymptotically cease to make an impact on the data center’s overall energy consumption posture beyond a certain threshold. Energy savings beyond this will have to come from a fundamental recasting of the data center environment as a whole through purposeful optimization as shown below:
Crossing the Green Threshold: 4 Calibrators, 3 Levers and 3 Enablers
Crossing this asymptotic threshold for energy savings entails taking an approach to designing data center infrastructure that eschews overly complex arrangements, offering the minimum required redundancy and surge capacity levels to satisfactorily address resilience requirements. This implies designing a data center environment that makes energy-conscious trade-offs between the “3 Cs” of capacity, control and complexity as shown below: