Some things to consider when running a data center (Part 1)
Wednesday, Mar 12th 2014
As businesses go increasingly digital, the need for data centers to secure company information is more important than ever before. It is not only tech giants like Google and Facebook that need a place to house their information - businesses across the healthcare, government and industrial sectors are looking to data centers as a solution to their storage needs. But running a data center is not something that can be done impulsively. Whether your company has the funds and scale of operations to occupy its own center or ends up looking into existing facilities, here are some important considerations to keep in mind to maximize an enterprise data center operation.
Consider renewable energy solutions
In Hollywood movies, data centers are generally represented as massive, noise-intensive operations that actively drain energy out of whatever area they are occupying. This public perception of such facilities is understandable given that data centers must rely on a constant supply of energy - after all, their functionality depends on remaining active at all times. But just because they harness energy sources does not mean data centers can't function in an environmentally-minded, sustainable way.
Just ask Google, a company that has been dealing with data storage needs ever since it rented its first data storage facility - a closet-sized, 7 foot by 4 foot operation with a mere 30 computers - in 1998, according to CNET. Google has come a long way since then, and so has its dedication to sustainable methods of data center operation. The tech giant now has a vast network of data centers spanning the globe.
What unites Google's facilities is a singular commitment to renewable energy. With renewable energy currently powering more than a third of Google's data storage facilities, the company is always looking for ways to expand the use of solar and wind power, according to its site. Because it is challenging to have a renewable power generator on location, the company did the next best thing: It reached out to renewable energy providers in the area - such as wind farms - and made deals to buy energy from them. Among Google's energy suppliers are wind farms in Sweden and Oklahoma. Through these sources, the company is not only able to maintain solid data room cooling practices, but benefit the local community.
Have good outside air cooling
When it comes to maintaining an optimal data room temperature, it's best to follow the lead of companies well-versed in data storage. Google and Microsoft are two such businesses, and they both share a commitment to harnessing natural resources to keep their data centers cool.
In Dublin, Microsoft has invested more than $800 million to date in order to build a data center that covers almost 600,000 square feet. The enormous size of the facility would seem to present a major cooling challenge, but the company has been able to surmount that by using fresh air cooling, Data Center Knowledge reported. By building the center in Ireland, where the temperature remains optimal for data room cooling, Microsoft is able to maximize the location as a natural cooling solution - a move that saves significant energy costs while keeping the company environmentally friendly as well. And its commitment to environmentally sound solutions does not end with cooling: the center also recycles 99 percent of the waste it produces.
Google has a similarly cooling-minded approach with its data facility in Finland, which it hopes will be almost completely powered by wind energy by 2015, according to Data Center Knowledge. The wind energy will come from a wind park located nearby. But the center is not waiting until then to implement good temperature practice. Instead of relying on chillers and other machine-based cooling techniques, Google relies on seawater from a nearby Gulf to cool the facility. Its efforts in Finland are part of a broader effort to expand the Google sphere of influence.
"The Google data center in Hamina offers Eastern Finland a tremendous opportunity to jump from the industrial to digital age," said Will Cardwell, a professor at a nearby university.
For more helpful tips about launching the perfect data center, be sure to check back for Part Two.