What’s Trending in Data Center Design?

Contributor: Swinerton Blogger   |   January 21, 2014
What’s Trending in Data Center Design?

Do you ever wonder where your data is stored if you use Gmail, YouTube, Hotmail or any other Internet-based applications? Ultimately, the 2.4 billion users of the Internet store all of their data on a hard drive in a data center. As more and more users store more and more data, the growth of digital storage is driving the need for more data center capacity, with the associated growth of power consumption. It is estimated that the amount of data stored in data centers will quadruple in the next four years.

As data centers consume increasing amounts of power, the current trend is to make the operation of data processing facilities as efficient as possible. On a global basis, data centers now consume 30 GW, or 1.5 percent of all power in the world. To limit the impact of this power demand on the global environment, data center operators are looking for ways to improve operating efficiency.

One of the key factors that has come into play is the durability of server equipment. The days of keeping computer rooms at a constant 68 to 72 degrees with a tight control of humidity are long gone. The American Society of Heating and Refrigeration Engineers has recommended that computer room temperatures be raised to a set point of 80 degrees, with a wider range of humidity allowed. This enables computer rooms to utilize free cooling (essentially drawing in outside air when it is cooler than the inside air), which eliminates the need for a form of mechanized cooling, such as a chiller or packaged AC unit. 

To help data center operators compare their efficiency, the Green Grid, a consortium of data center operators and vendors, has created a simple metric known as PUE, or Power Utilization Effectiveness. It is a measure of the overall facility power consumption, including all of the UPS and cooling systems divided by the computer equipment. The ideal number is 1.0, best in class is currently 1.11, and the national average is 1.8.

To help our clients reduce their electrical demand, Swinerton’s Critical Facilities team is pioneering the use of hybrid cooling systems that utilize a combination of air side economizers (free outside air when it is cold enough), direct evaporative cooling (basically like a swamp cooler inside the unit), and, when the cooling demand is highest, direct expansion (similar to a residential air conditioning system). These systems are very cost effective and, when combined with other energy saving measures, can deliver a PUE as low as 1.2. The feedback from the facility managers regarding these new systems is very positive as we continue to implement innovative solutions to help our clients improve their operating efficiencies.