Sun Focusing on Energy-Efficient Data Centers for Cuts In Cost, Carbon


Remember the data center construction boom of the dotcom bubble? Well, the opposite trend — data center consolidation —  is starting to take effect now that energy efficiency is becoming increasingly popular and the economy has hit the skids. Sun (s JAVA) is announcing Monday that it has finished “the largest data center consolidation project undertaken in the company’s history,” with a new energy-efficient data center in Broomfield, Colo. The data center is one of at least five that Sun has spent around $250 million constructing in recent years, while reducing its data center square footage by 60 percent.

The news comes just a day before Sun is expected to announce pretty poor quarterly earnings. Forbes says the earnings will likely deliver “the largest drop in year-over-year revenues,” since early 2008, as well as offer a closer look at how recently announced layoffs will be effecting the company. But the data center consolidation plan addresses cost-cutting, too.

The new 126,000-square-foot data center is the result of consolidating some 496,000 square feet of computing space, or a 66 percent reduction, in nearby Louisville, Colo., which Sun acquired after buying network computing company StorageTek. Sun says the new smaller Broomfield data center will save the company $1 million per year on its electricity bill by reducing 1 million kWh per month, eliminate 11,000 tons of CO2 per year that would be emitted into the atmosphere, and reduce Sun’s U.S. carbon footprint by 6 percent.


Beyond the space reduction, Sun has added other energy-efficient and sustainable features. The company started using flywheels — basically spinning discs that store kinetic energy — as an immediate backup power supply, which switches on when there is a sudden power outage. Flywheels have less hazardous waste compared to lead acid batteries commonly used in backup systems. Sun also is using an energy-efficient cooling system from Liebert to cool the servers.


To measure how energy efficient data centers are companies largely use the metric the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), which is monitored by The Green Grid organization and is found by dividing “total facility power” by “IT equipment power.” Mark Monroe, Director of Sustainable Computing at Sun, said the company is in the process of figuring out the Broomfield data center PUE, but that it should be similar to its other energy-efficient data centers, like its one in Santa Clara, Calif., which has a PUE of 1.38 — that’s pretty good.

The power to run the Internet doubled between 2000 and 2006, but the Internet has actually started to become more energy efficient, as the amount of electricity per gigabyte of data transferred has dropped over recent years. That energy efficiency is partly due to more companies adopting efficient hardware in data centers. Other computing companies working on cutting energy and costs in data centers are Hewlett Packard (s HPQ), Google (s GOOG), Amazon (s AMZN), Microsoft (s MSFT) and Brocade (s BRCD).

Images courtesy of Sun.


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