Society’s increasing demand for cloud storage and services are putting immense amounts of strain on data centers all over the world. Cisco expects the number of “mobile-connected devices” to outnumber the world’s population by 2017. To keep up with demand, data-oriented companies are constantly looking for new avenues to expand and build upon their existing infrastructures. Expansion, however, does not come cheap—for both the companies supplying the service as well as the general public.
Servicing and Saving Millions
On one end, improvements and expansion of existing IT equipment and facilities mean consumers can have access to more storage space, and, to an extent, faster transfer speeds. Keeping up with the public’s demand for cloud solutions, on the other hand, is extremely energy intensive. The annual electricity bill for a small datacenter can be several hundred thousand dollars, and millions for large ones.
To cope with the increase in energy consumption, engineers and IT professionals are constantly retrofitting their servers and facilities to cut down on electricity costs. Among some of the more innovative methods for doing so is utilizing a device called an air economizer. The concept has been around for quite some time, but the unique thing about this particular method is that no single blueprint is the best one. In fact, almost every data center utilizing this promising solution to reduce energy consumption is putting the pieces together differently.
Keeping the Servers Cool With Great Cooling Technology
Electricity is required for many aspects of running a data center, but an air economizer—as the name suggests—is related to the cooling system that’s required for the servers to hum along without breaking down. To keep a server running 24/7 without interruptions requires meticulous attention to not only the data that is coming and going, but also to the hardware that is processing them. Computer equipment, no matter how durable, is prone to malfunctions because of overheating. Cool air passing through a row of server blades at 68 degrees F can exit via an outlet at temperatures of over 120 degrees F. Therefore, the need for a continuous supply of cool air requires a well-designed cooling system. While the use of air conditioning units are standard for just about any data center, economizers are becoming an extremely useful method for cutting down servers’ reliance on air conditioning units.
In a proof-of-concept (PoC) published by Intel, the study found that employing a sound air economizer system can potentially reduce a large datacenter’s (10-MW+ facility) annual energy bill by over $2.5 million. The savings in annual operating costs is an enticing proposal, as the technology benefits both the datacenter’s operator and the environment.
Instead of relying on traditional air conditioner units alone, which relies heavily on recirculating air, clever IT companies are putting more emphasis on using outside air to cool the servers. In essence, when the outside air is at optimal condition, it is drawn through an air economizer to cool the server racks, and then flushed back out.
Within the air economizers are various compartments that help to decrease the air temperature as it’s passing through. Sensors inside and outside the economizer setup allow operators to know when outside air is safe for use in cooling the IT equipment. As humidity, dust and other conditions are major concerns, air economizers are uniquely built around a particular data center’s location and need.
In Intel’s test of their economizer PoC, engineers found that they experienced just a 4.46 percent failure rate (compared to 3.83 percent in air-conditioned only environment) of their server equipment, which utilized an economizer set up that took advantage of simple household-grade air filters. Not only that, but they were able to keep over 400 server blades going for ten month straight despite humidity varying from 4 to over 90 percent.
The outcome resulting from the use of an air economizer system appears to be a fruitful one, as is evident by Intel’s concluding number. After 10 months of running an economizer-equipped test data center, Intel reported that they observed a 67 percent reduction in energy required to cool the servers.
Small Gadget, Big Energy-hog
As the world transition to a much more mobile lifestyle, our dependence on data in the clouds will become a norm. Although we may be powering off our energy-hogging desktops and flipping the lights when we leave the room, the tablets and smartphones we carry may be consuming just as much energy while we’re on the go.
Here at QuadraNet, we take great pride in providing quality cloud solutions to all our clients. We are always looking ahead, scanning and detecting trends that will help us to deliver the best services possible. If you would like to know more about our employment of economizers and other energy-saving strategies, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our Sales staff for more information.