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How Green are You?

May 25, 2009 by  

Webmaster Tools – Paul Bryce, Business Development Director at Data Centre provider, Node4 shares his thoughts and opinions on some of the environmental issues that the company have come across whilst developing their second state-of-the-art Data Centre facility just outside of Leeds.

“The environment and the latest buzz word ‘green’ are hot topics in the media at the moment and as a result, many businesses are attempting to do all they can to become environmentally responsible. As the awareness of ‘green issues’ grows companies of all sizes in all industries are under increased pressure to make their operations more economical. This pressure comes from all angles; to satisfy existing and potential customers, staff, shareholders, and the increasing amount of websites, publications and blogs all offering ‘green’ advice to the modern business.

“In the Chancellor’s budget announced last month Alastair Darling encouraged IT organisations in particular to reduce power consumption, the challenge these companies now face is how this reduction can be done realistically whilst maintaining the existing level of service.

“In particular, data centres across the UK have come under a large amount of criticism for the amount of power the facility consumes and the size of their carbon footprint, despite the fact that there are multiple companies utilising this one purpose-built facility saving emissions compared to several small facilities across the country. But data centres as an entity, if utilised correctly, can actually be environmentally friendly. Even simple things such as if the data centre provides remote hands or a managed hosting service will enable the technical department of the customer to make fewer visits to their servers, therefore reducing traffic and pollution on the roads.

“A technology which has been heavily publicised as a potential solution to the environmental issues in a data centre is virtualisation, which allows users to make better use of their existing hardware assets. Virtualisation improves the efficiency of the server, therefore saving energy and cutting down on power. But as virtualisation increases the CPU utilisation of the server up to 70%, it generates a lot more heat and therefore increases the need for air conditioning cooling which could counteract the good that virtualisation is doing. However, looking at the bigger picture, virtualisation will reduce the amount of physical servers on site and therefore the amount of power consumed.

“Actions can be taken whilst planning new data centres or fitting out old ones to ensure that the air conditioning units are energy efficient. A number of the latest units feature a ‘free-cooling’ cycle and water cooled chillers which decrease the need for mechanical cooling. This significantly reduces the energy consumption and carbon emissions of the air conditioning units by typically saving 35% of the energy used by conventional air-cooled liquid chillers.

“In most cases these new technologies are not enough to gain carbon-neutrality so the latest trend has seen data centres committing to planting a few hundred trees each year to off-set their carbon footprint. Here in the UK only 12% of our land is wooded, compared with an average of 32% in each European country and there are a number of companies across the country that are dedicated to helping businesses to neutralise their emissions. Tree planting provides the best chance to help reduce the carbon footprint of data centres off-site.

“Initiatives such as tree planting and recycling promises will also improve staff morale within the business. Employees are happy and encouraged that their employers are in the forefront of green initiatives and appreciate that actions are being taken to do something positive for the environment and the future for us all.”

Node4’s Wakefield facility, DC3 will be opening to customers at the end of May, and these are just some of the issues that they have come across and put into place whilst building the new facility. Going forward they plan to work with customers and partners to make the most of the green initiatives at DC3 as they take steps towards making their own business carbon efficient.

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