According to a report from IBM Marketing Cloud, 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last two years alone. It is almost unfathomable. Thousands of years of human history and knowledge captured in vast volumes of books, manuscripts, and electronic media from the beginning of time up until the last two years only account for 10% of all the data ever generated. Created at the rate of about 2.5 quintillion bytes per day (or an equivalent of 2.5 million terabytes per day), this massive amount of data is mostly stored and managed in the cloud. This equates to millions of servers around the world in places that look anything but cloud-like, and in fact, nobody even notices: data centers.
The massive and accelerating growth of data creation has put data centers at the epicenter of our global economy. However, this central position comes at a steep cost. Powering those servers and securing the information they store are big challenges for the companies that enable our always-connected, social lives, such as Facebook, Google and Amazon. Last April, in our article, “Data Centers: The New Epicenter of Our Connected World,” we wrote, “to process the world’s information to keep our connected societies moving, these incredible facilities need energy, lots of it.” The figure stands at around 2% of the world’s total electricity consumption. Some data centers actually consume as much energy as a small city.
Getting Creative to Save Electricity
Today’s computing devices have hundreds of electronic components that produce heat, and most have miniature fans to cool them down to prevent overheating. By comparison, servers have thousands of electronic components, and they produce a lot of heat. Data centers with hundreds or thousands of these servers produce enormous amounts of heat that need to be diffused for the same reason. Doing this with air conditioning systems is where around one-third of the electricity consumption for data centers goes. Some data centers have become creative in their choice of location and their use of design to save electric power.
Our friends at whoishostingthis.com recently created an interesting infographic smartly titled, “The World’s Most Creative (and Bizarre) Data Centers.” Here, we highlight from the infographic how three data centers got creative and increased their energy efficiency.
With 35,000 heat-producing servers, OVH Roubaix 4 in France designed their data center as a cube with a hollow core to ventilate the entire building. Additional cooling is provided by a water cooling system. Both innovations were designed in-house, resulting in a 50% savings in their electricity bill.
In 2010, Yahoo! built a data center based on the design concept of a traditional chicken coop, where natural ventilation circulates the air and keeps the birds healthy. Air circulation is exactly what the mini fans inside computers do to avoid overheating, so Yahoo! replicated this idea on a massive scale. As a result, 99% of the data center’s cooling is natural, resulting in an annual power savings of 40%.
Cloud & Heat in Germany designed server cabinets with two purposes in mind: to provide a cooling system that uses less energy and to transfer the heat to homes and businesses that need it. The latter design goal treats heat as a valuable resource. Rather than diffusing it with ventilation or air conditioning, they sell this heat to places that need it.
Ever-Increasing Data Requires Power Solutions for Data Centers on All Fronts
Data centers must find resilient energy solutions to power our data-centric way of life. The three examples depicted by the whoishostingthis.com infographic illustrate how design can save significant amounts of electricity when it comes to cooling servers. Creative designs like these can make data centers more sustainable and can save the industry billions of dollars in energy costs every year. In addition, innovative technologies in the localized production of clean energy, such as Hydrogen 2.0, can take the industry to a new level where the 2% of the global energy consumed by data centers carries a significantly lower environmental footprint, and at a fraction of the cost.
About the Author
Tom Elowson is a cloud pioneer and data center industry expert. In 1999, Tom co-founded the ASP Industry Consortium with Traver Kennedy (Citrix), Microsoft, and Cisco where he helped to recruit 700 global ISVs to start the ground-breaking initiative towards subscription-based software (now known as SaaS). He co-founded three successful cloud companies: TeleComputing, Apptix and AcXess, all of which are still in business today.
As the Hydrogen 2.0 ecosystem gains momentum, we’ll be sharing our views and insights on the new Hydrogen 2.0 Economy. We also update our blog every week with insightful and current knowledge in this growing energy field.