Low-Hanging Fruit for Green Data Centers: Plain Old Air

Data center builders on the cutting edge of sustainability are increasingly turning to a low tech, widely available and free approach to cut cooling costs and energy consumption: outside air. On Thursday, the Green Grid, a trade group dedicated to reducing energy consumption in data centers, plans to release free online tools to help data center operators determine how cost-effective and useful outside cooling is at their location.

Operators can enter their ZIP codes and various data center energy info, and the tool will spit out the possible energy savings of using fresh air. For example a 1 MW data center in San Jose, Calif., with power costing 12.78 cents per kilowatt-hour, could save $66,000 per year with outside cooling. Not bad. The Green Grid is also offering up a couple handy-dandy maps of the U.S. that show places where outside cooling (and water-side cooling) is more effective.

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Traditional data centers are largely closed environments that have carefully controlled temperatures and large chillers that keep servers and IT equipment cool enough to operate effectively. Operators don’t want dust and outside elements floating in and mucking with all that sensitive gear. But as concerns over energy consumption of data centers rises — particularly the large amount of energy needed for cooling — companies from Google to IBM to Sun, are adding in more ways to naturally cool down equipment using outside air. Whether that’s as simple knocking down a wall or using tubes to pipe in outside air, companies are finding that outside air is becoming an important part of the equation. And, best of all, it’s free.

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