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Energy Efficiency Makes Two Kinds of Green

Would you believe you can have yourself a pretty successful business upgrading office buildings with more energy-efficient light bulbs and timers to switch off heating and cooling systems after hours?

I worked as a newspaper reporter for much of the 1990s.  I wrote an article in 1993 about how the city of Santa Clarita in Los Angeles County had hired a firm to retrofit its field services office with new lighting, timers and other energy-efficient solutions.  The improvements were expected to save about $70,000 per year.

What always intrigued me about the story was that the company that performed the upgrades not only allowed Santa Clarita to incrementally pay for the improvements out of the savings from lowered utility bills but also guaranteed those savings would more than offset the price tag of the improvements in 5 years.  If the savings didn’t materialize, the company would pay the shortfall back to the city.

Everyone wins.  The company performing the upgrades gets paid for doing the upgrade work, the city saves money on its utility bills for years to come and the environment is better off due to reduced energy consumption and associated carbon emissions.

Now, consider that modern Data Centers can have power densities 50 to 100 times those of conventional office buildings.  How much greater green – both financial and environmental kind – can be had by saving energy in those environments?  With that in mind, here is an overview of several strategies being implemented in Data Centers to make them greener.

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Is It Me or Is It Getting Warmer In Here?

By reading this blog, you’re making someone’s Data Center a little warmer.

Playing the video below?  Warmer.

Navigating to another website?  Warmer.

Sending an e-mail?  Downloading an application?  Initiating a web search?  Warmer, warmer, warmer.

Everything you and I do online triggers computing activity in a Data Center somewhere that in turn consumes energy and creates heat.  Each action has a negligible impact on its own, but with more people conducting more tasks online every day – well, you see the concern.

Perhaps we could use some of that heat?  It’s a great idea, but specific conditions need to be in place for Data Center waste heat to be of use.

We’ll keep our eyes open for suitable opportunities to reuse waste heat in future Data Center builds.  Meanwhile, come back next week for a look at several green Data Center solutions that Cisco and others are using.

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Getting More From a Legacy Data Center

Have you ever tried to fit 10 lbs. of flour into an 8 lb. bag?

If you have a legacy Data Center and a growing business, that answer is probably yes.  Maybe you’re figuring to force more hardware onto your already-full floor space.  Maybe you’re wanting to wring every last watt from the circuits supporting your racks.  Perhaps you’re seeking to slip in just a few more servers without overtaxing your cooling system.

Whatever flour you have, the obvious fix is to buy a bigger bag:  add cooling infrastructure, add power systems, knock down a wall and add floor space.  Unfortunately, those are expensive solutions – even a relatively small server environment can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars when you include both Facilities and IT costs.

Perhaps there’s another way, though – a way that 8 lbs. of flour can meet your 10 lbs. of need and you don’t need more flour or a bigger bag after all.

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Data Center Design for Good Neighbors

Bugs Baer was right.

The newspaper writer and cartoonist once defined a good neighbor as “a fellow who smiles at you over the back fence but doesn’t climb over it.”

If your Data Centers are like most, they have many neighbors – er, tenants – in them.  Some want open access, so they can quickly update applications and hardware.  Others want a highly-restricted environment, where changes are few and far between.  Still others want operational policies somewhere in between.

How, then, to construct a Data Center so everyone remains good neighbors?  That is, meeting everyone’s particular operational needs while ensuring that no tenant activities – or restrictions – ever impact those around them?

Below, I suggest some design considerations when building a multi-tenant Data Center.

What else do you think someone should consider when hosting very different clients in their Data Center?

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Data Center Deconstructed

If you had a team of Data Center experts at your beck and call, what would you ask them?

How to lower your Data Center costs?  How to get more performance out of a legacy server environment?  Who thought an emergency-power-off button was a good idea for a facility filled with business-critical hardware?

I’m launching this blog series to be a forum to share useful information about Data Centers.  Rather than me telling you what I think is important, though, you’re in charge.  Submit a question and I’ll locate a Data Center expert to provide the answer you’re looking for.  I’ll post the resulting question-and-answer here, for everyone to watch and learn from.

Click below for a brief introduction and instructions on how to submit a question.

A new video will be added each week, so come back regularly for the latest questions and answers.

To see all Data Center Deconstructed posts, go to http://blogs.cisco.com/tag/datacenterdeconstructed/.

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