Designing for Efficiency: A Green Data Center Checklist

Annie Paquette
June 07, 2019

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It is my recent observation that Marc Cram, the author of many of Server Technology’s thought leadership (pieces) over the years, likes to hide Easter Eggs for fans of his ever-engaging white papers.  This seems to be the case with “The Power of Hyperscale Computing 2019,” the new white paper from Server Technology.  In an appendix hidden in plain sight is a useful checklist for designers of green data centers, or at least those contemplating a green build. 

In this blog, we review the list with Marc, who provides color on some of our favorite questions.

SR:  One of your first questions is about the costs to achieve your PUE or efficiency goal. Why is that important?

MC:  On many of the data center projects we have been involved with, the PUE goal becomes embedded in the minds of the designers, sometimes without regard to the ROI of the solutions or equipment that get specified. Staying focused on the cost portion of the efficiency equation ensures that PUE decisions are made with the financial interests of the owner in mind.

SR:  So true. One of the next questions is about the type of power that is available from the utility. Talk about that one.

MC:  Yes, one of the questions in the list asks, “What type of power is available from the utility – renewable? AC or DC?”  This is important to understand because there may be more options available to the design team. And particularly with renewables, many companies are able to achieve their efficiency goals without making the investment in wind or solar.

SR:  You also address the issue of cooling, which plays a crucial role in the efficiency of the facility and the calculation of PUE.

MC:  That’s right. Best-practice data centers consider the cooling system relative to the environment of the data center.  They ask, “have you compared cooling methodology versus average climate at the data center location?” Different climates provide differing opportunities for efficiency, from free cooling to adiabatic or evaporative processes.

SR:  Finally, you talk about some alternate applications for data center PDUs. Can you elaborate on that?

MC:  Absolutely. The last two questions on the list deal with some new ways that rack PDUs are considered for distributing power. First I ask, “would you use a standard, basic PDU instead of a bus bar?”  Some recent designs have challenged the notion of distribution and have found that a very basic rack PDU can be a more cost-effective approach than traditional methods, even bus bars.  I also encourage customers to think about their compute application, and how they need to interact with the rack.  In some cases, an investment in an intelligent PDU or network power strip can be more cost-effective than monitoring systems.

To learn more about Marc Cram’s top questions for designing a green data center, please head to “The Power of Hyperscale Computing 2019.” Appendix B on page 23 of the document provides 13 key questions you should answer at the outset of your next data center design.

Energy Consumption and Hyperscale Leadership