How Facebook, eBay Improve Energy Efficiency in Data Centers

by | Oct 18, 2010

Better airflow management helps improve energy efficiency and cut electricity costs in data centers according to one tip shared by Facebook and eBay, reports Computerworld.

Facebook and eBay shared some energy-saving tips at a recent panel session, “holistic approaches to reducing energy use,” at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s Data Center Efficiency Summit, reports Computerworld.

Jay Park, Facebook’s director of data center engineering, said during the panel session that the company cut its costs by $230,000 a year at a 56,000-square-foot data center in Santa Clara, Calif., thanks to better air flow management, along with a $294,000 rebate from its electric utiliy.

After a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis indicated that Facebook’s data center had warm air mixing with cold air above and around server aisles, the company chose a cold aisle containment project to make the cooling systems more efficient.

The project entailed closing the tops and ends of server aisles with fire retardant plastic to prevent cold air blowing up through perforated floor tiles from escaping, and allowed the company to shut down 15 of its computer room air handlers (CRAHs), reducing its energy draw by 114 kW, according to Computerworld. It also enabled it to raise the air temperature at the CRAH inlets from 72 degrees to 81 degrees F.

Facebook also worked with its vendor to reduce the fan speed in each of the servers via a firmware update, which saved 3 watts per server.

Facebook says it is currently building one of the most energy-efficient data centers to date in Prineville, Oregon. However, Greenpeace started a campaign in February to get Facebook to power the data center with renewable energy instead of coal.

EBay also conducted a CFD analysis for its data center and decided on a cold-aisle containment project for its 80,000 square foot facility in Phoenix, reports Computerworld. The company installed blanking panels to prevent cold air escaping from the server racks and variable-speed fans in its 86 30-ton CRAHs.

eBay also worked with its supplier of universal power supplies to reduce excess capacity in those systems.

Rick Rehyner, senior manager for eBay’s global data center operations, said in the article that eBay worked with the utility provider to get a rebate, “which made it worthwhile.”

Rehyner also noted that the project reduced total power consumption and carbon emissions at eBay’s data center by about 16 percent. Over the 18-month life of the project its total IT power load increased 50 percent because more servers were added, but the power load for the whole data center increased only 25 percent thanks to less power required for cooling, according to Computerworld.

In May, eBay opened its $287-million Topaz data center in Utah that the company says is 50 percent less expensive to operate than the average of all other data centers eBay leases thanks to many energy-efficiency features including a power usage effectiveness (PUE) rating of 1.4.

Data centers across the nation are implementing a host of initiatives aimed at energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, ranging from HVAC optimization to being powered by renewable energy sources.

Here are three more options for energy-efficient data centers.

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