The data center industry has embraced green goals in a big way over the past couple of years, and companies of all shapes and sizes are vying to crank out the most energy-efficient facilities with the lowest PUE (Power Utilization Effectiveness) rating. Plenty of companies have not only trumpeted their success in attaining admirable PUE scores, many are refreshingly -- and surprisingly -- open in sharing their secrets with the rest of the industry.
Yahoo is a notable exception to the trend -- at least in part. The company appears to have a handle on wringing a high levels of per-watt performance from its data centers. Just this week, the company announced a new data center facility in Lockport, N.Y., with a jaw-dropping PUE of 1.08. In comparison, the industry average is 1.92 according to the EPA; the lowest reported PUE on record that I've seen, prior to Yahoo's announcement, is 1.11 from Google, but its average among all its datacenter is 1.23.
[ Also on InfoWorld: Five trends driving data center decisions | Find out ways to reduce your data center's energy consumption. | And Ted Samson reveals how data center operators dangle green benefits to lure tenants. | Keep up on the day's tech news headlines with InfoWorld's Today's Headlines: First Look newsletter. ]
Where Yahoo parts ways with other green data center leaders is in its reticence to disclose its homegrown best practices. This would be easy to forgive were it not for the company's stated commitment to environmental leadership and its claim that it has "been sharing best practices to encourage the entire industry to put smarter policies in play."
Enter the Yahoo Compute Coop
In promoting its Lockport facility, here's what Yahoo has disclosed: The company has developed a modular data center called the Yahoo Compute Coop (YCC, pictured right), named so because it resembles a chicken coop, a design that promotes better airflow. The facility uses no mechanical cooling whatsoever, which means no electricity goes toward spinning fans to push cold air up through the raised floor or down from the ceiling. Rather, the facility relies entirely on outside air, supplemented by evaporative cooling. Servers are lined up in hot aisle/cold aisle formation to prevent air mixing.
To Yahoo's credit, the company has done a fine job in building an environmentally friendly data center that uses far fewer natural resources than average. It even runs on hydropower delivered by a NYPA utility. The design earned Yahoo a hefty $9.9 million chunk of the U.S. Department of Energy's Green IT grant program.
But aside from the chicken coop design, Yahoo has not disclosed anything especially new or innovative here that sheds any light on how it's managed such a high level of energy efficiency. The data center industry is well aware of the greens merit of modularity, free cooling, and hot aisle/cold aisle containment. Plenty of companies practice those techniques, yet none has achieved a PUE of 1.08 (or if they have, they aren't saying so).