Facebook, eBay, Microsoft and Yahoo ‘New Breed’ of Efficient Data Center Operators

by | Oct 12, 2012

Facebook, eBay, Microsoft and Yahoo represent a “new breed” of data center operator, taking an integrated approach to save energy and costs and meet growing data center demand, according to a report by 451 Research.

Highly Efficient Data Centers in Practice includes case studies on what 451 Research calls the world’s most highly efficient data centers. It examines how these data centers are using design, energy management, cooling and new deployment approaches to improve their efficiency ratings. The report examines data centers operated by Facebook, eBay, Bell Canada, Microsoft, National Snow and Ice Data Center, Yahoo, Digital Realty, Sberbank Rossii, University of Leicester, BendBroadband, green.ch, Verne Global, EMC Corp, HP Enterprise Group, Verizon Wireless, Ark Continuity, Texas Advanced Computing Center, NTT Communications, the state of California, the National Center for Atmospheric Research and three unnamed companies.

The research finds that the proliferation of Internet and cloud computing services will continue to place increased demand and public focus on data center operations. Financial savings is the key energy-efficiency driver (see chart) for data center operators, the report says.

Power and cooling remain the top targets for efficiency. Operators are being more cautious with DC power distribution, the research firm says.

While companies of all sizes are using airflow containment and raising the server inlet temperature to improve cooling efficiency, some data centers are taking cooling efficiencies even further. Microsoft’s new 112,000-square-foot facility in Dublin will rely entirely on “free-air cooling,” or outside air cooling, instead of using mechanical chillers.

According to the report, Microsoft expects the new facility to achieve a peak PUE rating of about 1.25 or lower, and says the company is likely to have saved up to 40 percent on the total capital cost of the new facility by using free-air cooling. The new facility will not use any water for cooling, and will see lowered operating costs — the report says cooling can account for 30 to 70 percent of energy costs.

Companies including Facebook, eBay and Bell Canada are also putting more emphasis on collaboration, not only between data center facilities and IT operations within an organization, but also sharing and developing best practices across the industry, the report says.

The report uses Facebook’s Open Compute Project as an example. In April 2011 Facebook made its custom-designed server and data center specifications freely available. The project develops high-efficiency server and data center designs.

451 Research says several Facebook data centers, including one in Prineville, Ore., have adopted Open Compute designs. The Prineville facility’s energy consumption per unit of computing power was 38 percent lower than in Facebook’s leased facilities, the report says.

451 Research’s study follows a New York Times report published last month that analyzed energy use by data centers and found that, on average, they use only 6 to 12 percent of the electricity powering their servers to perform computations. The rest keeps servers idling and is there in case of a surge in activity, the newspaper said.

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