Syracuse University turns to DC power in constructing its Green Data Center
Other green practices include on-site power generation and innovative liquid cooling
If the subject is politics, the word "efficiency" is rarely paired with the acronym "DC." In the world of sustainable IT, however, the other DC, direct current, is gaining recognition as a more efficient, less hardware-intensive power-delivery technology than the standard AC (active current): hence, Syracuse University's decision to build its Green Data Center atop a DC power infrastructure.
Funded with public and private contributions (including IBM's largesse), the university's $12.4 million, 12,000-square-foot Green Data Center (GDC) is designed to use about 50 percent less energy than a typical data center. A chunk of those saved watts come via a DC power system, which requires fewer power conversions than does a traditional AC-based facility.
In the GDC, DC power is delivered directly at the appropriate voltage to IBM System z10 servers, thus eliminating waste from conversions. Big Blue's Power- and z-series servers readily accept either 380 or 575 volts of DC directly, according to Edward Seminaro, chief hardware systems engineer for IBM: "When the energy efficiency is combined with the benefits of running an end-to-end DC environment, it is difficult to deploy a system that is greener or more reliable."
By embracing DC, Syracuse University also managed to reclaim precious floor space that would otherwise be lost to additional conversion equipment. Furthermore, less hardware translates to a reduced environmental footprint for the school, as there are fewer resources expended in building and delivering products.
Also contributing to the facility's energy efficiency and reduced carbon footprint, SU's GDC is powered entirely by an on-site electrical trigeneration system that runs on natural gas, one of the cleanest sources of energy out there.
Additionally, IBM and Syracuse University devised a clever approach to making cooling in the data center more efficient. For starters, they created a liquid cooling system that uses double-effect absorption to convert exhaust heat from the generator into chilled water to cool not only servers, but also an adjacent building. Server racks incorporate "cooling doors" that use chilled water to remove heat from each rack more efficiently than conventional room-cooling methods. The data center also employs sensors to monitor server usage and temperatures to tailor the amount of cooling delivered to servers, further improving efficiency.