Tag Archives: green

Back To The Future

At a recent data centre cooling seminar the discussion was all about where the industry would go next when current air-cooling technologies and techniques exhausted all the efficiency gains over today’s standard DX units.  The consensus seemed to be that liquid cooling, particularly liquid immersion cooling would inevitably reign supreme as it has two major advantages over other cooling techniques:

  1. Certain liquids can be up to 4000-times more effective at removing high heat loads than air
  2. Liquid delivered to the server submerged in it, can be as hot as the maximum operating temperatures allow, reducing the cost of cooling (sometimes eliminating it altogether), and, in addition, providing a good heat source that can be used with thermocouples or other engineering solutions to generate electricity (see: http://phys.org/news/2013-05-green-conversion-electricity.html)

So who’s doing this?  Well, it appears that this market is beginning to expand quite rapidly, as higher performance computing (HPC) becomes more ubiquitous in industry.  Data Center Knowledge report (http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2013/07/01/the-immersion-data-center/) that CGG have just installed a futuristic-looking data centre in Houston, Texas, that wouldn’t look out of place in a sci-fi movie.  Computer circuits are immersed in mineral oil ‘baths’ making the data centre eerily quiet.   A small British start-up, Iceotope (http://www.iceotope.com/), have been winning awards for their innovative ‘data centre in a rack’ design that is now beginning to gain traction in HPC environments.

If you think you’ve seen this all before, well you’re right, Cray were putting their supercomputers into liquid in the 1980′s and IBM have also been doing it for decades.  It largely fell out of favour as data centre managers became risk-averse to water in their data centres.  Today’s technologies are highly proven in terms of prevention of leakage and I’ve yet to hear of anyone who has experienced one, though I’m sure there are some examples out there.

Something to think about anyway when you design your next data centre…where will you put the pipes, and how will you re-use the heat?

University of Hertfordshire wins award for sustainability excellence

7 November 2011: The University of Hertfordshire has won a prestigious Green Gown Award 2011 for its pioneering data centre refurbishment project. This outstanding achievement was announced on 3 November at the national awards ceremony held at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London.

Run by the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC), the Green Gown Awards (GGA) recognise exceptional environmental initiatives being undertaken by universities, colleges and the learning and skills sector across the UK. With 240 applications this year, a rise of 25% from 2010, GGA are firmly established as prestigious recognition of sustainability excellence in the further and higher education sectors.

The GGA covers 13 awards categories and the University has won the coveted Green ICT category. This recognises the growing environmental importance of ICT within the sector; it encompasses a variety of actions that help minimise energy consumption, carbon emissions, waste generation and other environmental impacts associated with ICT use.

After months of scrutiny the judges said the UH entry gave “Impressive examples of best-practice features which could easily be adapted by others.” At the Awards Ceremony a delighted Steve Bowes-Phipps, UH Data Centre Manager, was presented with the impressive GGA trophy which will be proudly displayed in the College Lane Learning Resources Centre.

Steve said: “Once again, the Data Centre Refurbishment project has been recognised as a beacon of good practice both in the industry and in the HE/FE sector.” He praised his project team colleagues from across the University saying the award was fully deserved: “This has been an important 3-year development for the University which has delivered not only a world-class green data centre but also an operationally efficient one.”

Visit the Green Gown Awards website

More on Data Centre Best Practices II

Regular readers of this blog will know that while we have a sector-leading green and efficient data centre on one of our campuses, the other data centre is somewhat backward in that regard and I’ve spent a lot of effort trying out various ways of improving its efficiency. I’ve resorted to some fancy new type of floor tile and put grommets under the racks, blocking the holes that the cables poke through to help sustain static pressure in the floor plenum.

We’ve been making these changes blindly though as we had no meters in order to measure power usage and calculating the PUE is next to impossible as the building meters are not specific enough.

The good news is that we are finally starting to make some progress! Last Friday, we had power meters installed. We needed four: (1) Main Facility Supply, (2) PDB A, (3) PDB B and (4) Utility Board. Meter 4 captures the usage of the lighting, but also an external comms room that takes its power from our UPS – a legacy piece of infrastructure that could have been architected differently if I had been there when it was designed.

Unfortunately I don’t have a network connection Meter 1 as yet, but I do have the other three meters connected up and recording. The meters we are using are the same we’ve used elsewhere: Cube IP/400s. Does anyone know a way of capturing data from these devices automatically without manual cut & paste? If you do, please let me know. They store about 2.5 months of raw data and a year of totals for trending purposes. They can also calculate cost in monetary terms as well as carbon.

Now we can calculate our PUE and really know how our efficiency improvements are making an impact…more to follow…

Simplifying the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme: Next Steps

(with thanks to EAUC for providing this news item)

The Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) have recently published their proposals for the simplification of the Climate Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency scheme.

The scheme has been criticised by many for its complexity, and as a result, the Government committed itself to simplifying the CRC and published a number of discussion papers earlier this year. DECC has now summarised the proposals for a simplified scheme, intended to be applied from Phase 2 (2013) onwards.

The most significant proposals include:

  • Making the qualification process easier: Under the original scheme, qualification of organisations was based on two criteria: (i) the presence of one or more settled half hourly meters; and (ii) a total electricity of at least 6,000MWh measured to such meters. Under the simplified scheme, participants will just have to prove they use a certain amount of electricity from the qualifying meter. Whether this will differ, in practice, from the original rule is currently unknown.
  • Reduce the number of fuels covered by the scheme: Currently participants are required to report on their energy supplies from a list of 29 fuels. DECC now proposes to reduce this number to four: electricity, gas, kerosene, and diesel (and the latter two, where used for heating purposes).
  • Move to fix price allowance sale: The initial scheme provided for an allowance auction from Phase 2 onward. The number of allowances would have been capped following the auction, with an option to purchase additional allowances on the secondary market. Current proposals, however, would establish two sales per year, with a fix price for allowances. This removes the need for businesses to come up with auctioning strategies, although it is unsure whether there will still be room for a secondary market and how this market evolve.
  • Simplifying organisational rules: Previously, participation was based on highest parent company. This caused problems to many business structures, particularly private equity and other investment funds, as it did not reflect their natural structure or processes of these organisations. Under the simplified scheme, although qualification would be maintained at highest parent company, organisations will be permitted to participate as “natural business units”. What will be considered as a natural business unit is not defined in the proposals.
  • Removing overlaps between the CRC scheme and other schemes: Any organisations or sites covered by a Climate Change Agreement or the EU Emissions Trading Scheme will be automatically exempt of the CRC.

Despite numerous calls from stakeholders, DECC has decided against changes made to rules dictating the landlord and tenant relationship under the scheme.

Following this review, the Government now intends to publish draft legislative proposals in early 2012 for formal public consultation.

To view the full proposals, click here.

Blanking Panels

First post of the year – so I wish all my regular readers a very Happy and Prosperous one!

I have been busy in the data centre fixing blanking panels recently – we didn’t quite have enough (we do now) but I did manage to virtually completely plug the main hot aisle.  This seems to have had a great effect as my PUE has now dropped from 1.33/1.34 to 1.23/1.24 and I’m *still* running on the “Summer” setting on the CRAHs!!!  Our new support and maintenance provider has started from 4th Jan 2011, so this will be sorted out soon.  It’s nice to see though, that we are approaching our target PUE – if only for a month or so until the weather starts to warm up again.  This gives me confidence that once the data centre is in balance, we should be able to achieve the 1.22 PUE annualised.

On another (related) note: I tried to fit some in-fill panels yesterday.  These are panels that supposedly block the sides of extra-wide cabinets to prevent air escaping around the inside of them.  We have 6 of these in our main comms room.  I have to say, I spent about an hour in there trying these panels in every configuration I could conceive and I cannot see how they fit together to the racks.  They are the correct type – from the same manufacturer – so I can’t see why it’s so difficult!  I’ll have to get someone in to assist.  If you are considering purchasing these – ask for a manual!

UH Wins Datacentre Leaders Award 2010

Hot off the press – I was honoured to pick up the award for “Innovation in the Micro-Data Centre” last night at the Lancaster Hotel in London.  We entered this category last year, and although reaching the finals, our project wasn’t complete and therefore could not present a strong enough case – now it can…and has!

Recognition is a curious thing – I’ve spent a large part of this year going to conferences and speaking on this project, but while it is easy to dismiss awards as an industry giving itself a pat on the back, but there are two reasons why I think they matter:

1.  The more awareness that an award generates, the more likely other organisations will realise just what is being achieved out in the industry and seek to emulate it.  A lot of great work is being done but it rarely breaks cover until publicised.  Green IT is strangely prevalent only in pockets of organisations and may even come about by accident (under the guise of “cost-savings”) rather than by design

2.  Awards like this are not just handed out like tea and biscuits at a village fete; having a prestigious panel of industry experts review and assess your project means that what you can give back to the industry in terms of advice and help is given a stamp of approval. As a university, we believe it is vitally important to impart and disseminate knowledge and learning to where it’s needed most.  This award at least shows we know what we’re talking about and can also turn knowledge into practical results.

Overall a great year for us, and while I plan for two power outages over the next three weeks, I would like to wish all readers of this blog a very Merry Christmas, Happy New Year or seasonal good cheer -wherever you happen to be!

Energy Star Label for Data Centers (Steve Phipps)

Another day, another energy standard (http://bit.ly/bECWoa) hits the streets.

It would be easy for anyone looking to manage data centres efficiently to be confused by the plethora of competing standards emanating from various bodies around the World.  This particular standard builds on your Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) rating, which is a measurement devised by the Green Grid and recently upgraded to bring in external verification.  The problem is, PUE is a very blunt tool for measuring efficiency and should only really be used internally to an organisation, due to it’s susceptibility to external environmental factors and subjective decisions around what to measure.

So what value will the new rating bring?  I’m tempted to say “none at all”, but as with most things, if there is a commercial or regulatory value in doing something, then there will be an almighty rush to the EPA certification queue!  I think most data centre owners would be better off accrediting against the EU Code of Conduct for Data Centres (EUCoC for DCs).

The best practice techniques encouraged within the EUCoC will give an excellent starting template and provide an opportunity to lower energy, Carbon and operational costs.  Become an Endorser and/or a Participant and you might just gain some commercial benefit too.

As for the problem of proliferating standards, what we need is an holistic view of Sustainable ICT that helps to pull everything together rather than just provide arbitrary ‘kite marks’ against subjective quantitative measures…

Presenting and Exporting Green ICT to Germany (Steve Phipps)

Richard and I presented at the DataCenter Dynamics Public Sector Conference in Manchester on Monday 10 May.  Attended by around 300 Public Sector professionals and supplier organisations, this conference was targeted specifically at addressing the issues around managing, refurbishing and building data centres and the impact of the “G” (Government) Cloud on Public Sector strategy.

We had a good attendance for our case study “Micro Data Centre Refurbishment – Overcoming Physical and Budgetary Constraints in a Legacy Mixed-Use Facility” and the feedback afterwards was excellent.  More details on the conference can be found here: bit.ly/afDHUi

I also travelled to the University of Bremen last week, where I contributed to a joint exercise with Oxford University in exporting Green ICT to Germany.  Howard Noble from Ox Uni spoke on the Desktop PC angle, including tackling the social-psychological obstacles to changing to a sustainable future.  I presented Green ICT from the Data Centre perspective, including demonstrating a methodology for tackling the challenges of sustainability in a systemic way using my in-development Sustainable ICT Maturity Model.

More details on these projects can be found here: http://bit.ly/cUA7wR and http://bit.ly/9mABw5

Bremen University hope to use what they’ve learnt from our visit to build a Green ICT educational programme, incorporating those skills into academics, students, apprentices, technicians and engineers, with collaboration from the Mittelstand (SMEs).  This may be rolled out across the region as a formalised pedagogy that would allow all Universities within Germany to offer these training programmes and set Germany on the path to a more sustainable future.  It is important to note that currently Green ICT has no foothold in the educational sector over there.

Interpreting Climate Change Data (Steve Phipps)

It’s easy to be confused when looking at articles on climate change and carbon management. Someone once said that there are “Lies, damned lies and statistics” and perhaps the greater sin is not, to publish or use statistics to bolster or give credence to a false (or hopeful?) statement, but to interpret them lazily or using false assumptions. Extrapolating data without an understanding of the underlying mathematical models can be disastrous. So it is that I draw your attention to this site I happened upon today:


, that gives a neat description of the impact of Carbon on climate change.

As we grapple with the challenges of justifying spending large amounts of scarce capital resources in order to save on our electricity and carbon bills in the future, it is wise to ensure that we don’t overstate our case. If one needs any evidence from the recent past to show how scaremongering can damage the professionalism of our industry, one only needs to look at the furore over the hundreds of millions spent on the Y2K bug.

If you know of any other sites that explain these concepts simply then please let me know.

Datacenter Dynamics – November 2009 (Steve Phipps)

I also attended the conference; bearing in mind that there were huge amounts of information presented, here is a flavour of the some of the “take homes” I noted:

  1. Using VMotion to shift compute to fewer processors may use more energy if this results in more inefficient cooling
  2. HM Government are about to bring out a “Total Cost of Pollution” (TCP) metric that will tax companies on the cradle to grave environmental cost of the products they produce and consume. No…it isn’t April Fool’s Day….the detail is contained in IEEE Standard 1680, which is the foundation of the EPEAT program.
  3. ASHRAE 9.9 recommends dry bulb temperatures from 18 Degrees C -> 27 Degrees C, but allowable up to 32 Degrees C in case of CRAH failure.
  4. Shop Direct changed out the lights at their head office for low power consumption alternatives and for a capital outlay of £4k reduced their lighting cost from £7,800/yr to £175/yr with a ten year maintenance cycle!
  5. Shop Direct saw big gains when all of Facilities as well as IT went on ITIL – they now all speak the same language.
  6. Best Practice is to use 1% of IT Load for containment, EC Fans, fan speed control
  7. Construction costs should be allocated at 7-15,000 Euros/m2 raised floor space (w/out real estate cost)
  8. Challenge assumptions that high density loads require chilled water
  9. London does not require chillers due to the available year-round ambient temperatures!
  10. Best AC supply efficiencies are 2% better than -48V DC supply! (I was surprised by this too)
  11. There will be two documents published on the Cabinet Office’s website in the next few weeks (looked for them now and can’t find them!):  CIO Advanced Green ICT Workbook and the Greening Government ICT Strategy Refresh
  12. EU Code of Conduct will have “eco ingredients” in its next refresh
  13. Green Grid are bridging the gap between Facilities, IT and Finance (but not environment)
  14. Water footprint metric on its way!
  15. Energy re-use metric being developed in collaboration with Lawrence Berkeley University
  16. Need to measure “carbon intensity” of different energy sources
  17. There is an appetite for a Public Sector Datacentre Dynamics Conference – now scheduled for April 2010.
  18. Cold Aisle issues:
  • Staff more likely to do work in the cold aisle (front of rack)
  • Infiltration of hot air into the cold aisle has large impact
  • Need to control fans in CRAC/CRAH units
  • What about equipment that doesn’t need to go in the cold aisle?