Yahoo (s YHOO) has taken a cue from an unusual source for its latest green data center innovation: chicken coops. According to an article on Rich Miller’s excellent data center-focused site Data Center Knowledge, next month Yahoo will start production on a data center in Lockport, New York that will be the first implementation of a new energy efficient data center design it’s calling Yahoo Computing Coop (YCC).
The YCC design, which involves prefabricated metal 120 foot-by-60 foot buildings, can thank chicken coops for its innovative use of fresh air cooling. The data center design uses no chillers — those large cooling units that suck up lots of power — but has slanted openings that let outside air in, directs it toward a center aisle, and then pushes waste hot air toward a centralized chimney where it escapes or can be recirculated. Scott Noteboom, the Director of Data Center Operations for Yahoo, tells Miller that the centralized chimney design was influenced by Tyson’s coop design research.
As Greenpeace recently pointed out, the growth of media-consuming mobile devices that increasingly depend on “the cloud” — basically the Internet and data centers — to deliver hosted services and digital content, will help contribute to a massive growth in energy consumption and carbon emissions associated with data centers over the coming years. Greenpeace found that the energy consumption of cloud computing in 2007 was 622.6 billion kWh, which is 1.3 times larger than previously reported by The Climate Group’s Smart 2020 report.
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 usually 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 Yahoo, to Google (s GOOG) to IBM (s IBM) to Sun (s JAVA), are adding in more ways to cool down equipment using outside air.
Of course outside air is free, so the use of it lowers costs, as well as lowers the energy consumption of the data center by reducing the use of chillers. The important decision to be made to maximize outside air use for data centers is: location, location, location. The Green Grid, a trade group dedicated to reducing energy consumption in data centers, has released free online tools to help data center operators determine how cost-effective and useful outside cooling is at their locations. 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.
Google has gotten more attention than Yahoo for its green data center designs (Google’s Green Energy Czar Bill Weihl will be speaking at our Green:Net event on April 29 in San Francisco), so it’s good to see some friendly competition heat up over which Internet giant can be more energy efficient. After we see which data center maker is the greenest of them all, we’ll watch for them to take the next step: adding more clean power.
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