Syracuse University enlists DC power, liquid cooling for Green Data Center

Funded in part by IBM and public dollars, GDC will produce all its power on-site

Fueled by increased demand for Internet-delivered services and the ongoing data explosion, new data center projects continue to crop up around the country, despite the sad state of the economy. Fortunately, data center architects are not only embracing best practices for making their facilities as energy efficient as possible, they're also sharing some of their sustainability secrets while pushing the environmental envelope.

One of the most interesting data center announcements I've seen of late comes out of Syracuse University (SU). With public funds as well as support and funding from IBM, the institution recently completed its brand-new, $12.4 million, 12,000-square-foot Green Data Center (GDC), which will use about 50 percent less energy than a typical data center. The facility will be a base from which SU and Big Blue offer research and analysis services for organizations looking to build or renovate energy-efficient data centers.

[ Facebook says its future data center will have a remarkably low PUE of 1.15 | Did your organization undertake an innovative green-tech project in 2009? InfoWorld is currently accepting nominations for the 2010 InfoWorld Green 15 awards. ]

It's good to live in DC
Part of GDC's energy savings can be attributed to its use of DC power. Early last year, InfoWorld contributor Logan Harbaugh described how energy waste occurs in data centers built around AC:

In a typical data center environment, power conversions abound along the path from the outside utility pad to the servers. With each conversion, some power is lost. The power starts at the utility pad at 16,000 VAC (volts alternating current), then is converted to 440 VAC, to 220 VAC, then to 110 VAC before it reaches the UPSes feeding each server rack. Each UPS converts the incoming AC power to DC power, then back to AC. The UPSes then distribute that AC power to their respective servers -- where it's converted back to DC. As much as 50 to 70 percent of the electricity that comes into the data center is wasted throughout this long and winding conversion process.

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 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, the school also manages to reclaim precious floor space that would otherwise be lost to additional conversion equipment -- plus, there's the overall green benefit of having fewer pieces of IT equipment manufactured and delivered to the institution.

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