Data centers are a lynchpin of our modern economy. Server rooms power small- to medium-sized businesses, enterprise data centers support major corporations and server farms host cloud computing services. Keeping up with the explosive growth of digital content, big data, e-commerce and Internet traffic is making data centers one of the fastest growing consumers of electricity in developed countries.
In fact, data centers use nearly 2 percent of the world's supply of electricity at any given time, and 37 percent of that amount is used to keep computing equipment cool. Not only is this a drain on the power grid, but it also taxes water supply. A 15-megawatt data center can use up to 360,000 gallons of water a day — that’s more than half the water in an Olympic-size swimming pool.
Data center power consumption is on the rise, increasing 56 percent worldwide and 36 percent in the U.S. from 2005-2010. These substantial energy demands come at a price, and controlling operational costs in data centers has been a persistent challenge. IT systems are designed to ramp up and down based on a businesses’ use, yet cooling systems in data centers were not previously designed to do that.
Traditional data centers can incur excessive energy expenses from three main cost drivers:
- Over-building a data center
- Underutilizing the data center that has been built
- Inefficiently using cooling technology
Cost-saving Energy Solutions
Aligned Energy, an integrated technology platform, has developed a solution that eliminates infrastructure complexity and waste, heightens visibility and control, and improves reliability in data centers. One of Aligned Energy’s subsidiary companies, Inertech, set out to address the key drivers of cost in data centers. With 80 percent of a data center’s costs going towards the electrical and mechanical systems, Inertech determined that the only way to effect real change is to drive down the cost of the cooling system and electrical blocks.
Using Danfoss’ portfolio of products and application expertise, Inertech was able to develop a solution for scaling mechanical and energy infrastructure directly to servers and storage use, which has yielded enormous savings in water and electricity costs.
Evaluating Cost Drivers
The majority of a data center’s upfront costs are in building chiller infrastructure. The average data center is constructed to a “perceived build” based on the anticipated IT capacity. Companies try to predetermine the size of chiller plants needed to support IT, however these calculations are highly complex and difficult to accurately predict. Often, companies significantly overbuild data centers from day one, unnecessarily inflating their capital costs.
Operators of existing data centers working under this model were spending nearly 85 percent of their capital expense upfront, but they were applying this capital towards equipment that was going unused. These operators would start up their IT kits, and learn that they were running a much lighter load than what they had built for.
Earl Keisling, CEO of Inertech, explained that, “IT systems are designed, like in the financial industry, to ‘follow the sun around.’ These systems are designed to support very high loads in a given area, whether it be Hong Kong, or the London stock exchange, but have to be able to support low loads as well. The problem with the original technology – these large chiller plants – is that they only work well when they're fully loaded, because that’s what they were designed for.”
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