Yahoo Unveils “Chicken Coop” Data Center

by | Sep 20, 2010

Yahoo is opening a data center in upstate New York that uses a radical new design to reduce energy costs by 40 percent, PC Word reported today.

The facility in Lockport, N.Y., near Buffalo, will get almost all of its cooling from outdoor air, which is a significant energy saver. The data center, which has a capacity of 50,000 servers, will have a power usage effectiveness rating of 1.08, far less than the industry average of 1.92, CNET reports. This rating shows how much of the total energy used by the facility goes directly to the IT equipment, versus other uses like cooling. A rating of 2.0 means only half of the energy is powering the IT gear, while a rating of 1.0 would mean all of it is.

By taking advantage of the cool winds of upstate New York the company can reduce the need for the chillers—one of the most energy-intensive pieces of equipment in a traditional data center. The building itself will use what the company calls the Yahoo Chicken Coop design, a long, narrow building that makes it easier to circulate in outdoor air. The building is positioned to take advantage of the prevailing winds.

The facility is designed with three data center halls attached to a central operations center, with two more halls being built. The halls are angled toward the wind and are long and narrow to let air flow easily through them. They are shaped like giant chicken coops, hence the name of the design: the Yahoo Computing Coop.

According to the company, IT gear will be run primarily by hydroelectric power from the local utility, New York Power Authority. Yahoo says it’s the most energy efficient data center it has built.

Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz will open the data center at a ribbon-cutting ceremony this morning along with New York Governor David Patterson and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.

The U.S. Department of Energy gave Yahoo a $9.9 million information technology grant toward the cost of the facility. The DOE wants to encourage better energy practices in data centers, which account for an increasing proportion of U.S. energy use.  According to Yahoo, eliminating chillers at the facility will also save water, conserving enough drinking water for 200,000 people per year.

Yahoo is also opening an operations center in New York state and says it will create 125 full-time jobs.

Although using outdoor air would seem to be an obvious cooling method, it is not a common practice in data centers. Yahoo is seeking a patent for its Chicken Coop design, the company said.

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