This week, I had the pleasure of touring a data center developed and operated by a provider that has sites in only two cities in the US so far. I’m intentionally not mentioning the name of the provider, but would like to share some of the things they’re doing that impressed me. I was impressed because these are basic energy efficiency and capacity optimization features that for many larger providers, are deliberated to the point of indecision, but for these guys are done almost casually and with ease.
The first of these is cold aisle containment. The plastic blinds solution that often gets mired in fire code and aesthetics complications are in use at this provider. The fire code issue is addressed by ceiling clips that disconnect under heat, thus freeing the space for sprinkler coverage. Empty cabinets are blanked from the inside with contact paper, rather than the more expensive commercially produced blanking panels. The contact paper, by the way, is not fire retardant and as such we can’t endorse this approach… but even commercially available full-cabinet panels are not expensive.
Another feature is free air cooling. This particular facility is in Atlanta, Georgia, and other Atlanta operators that I’ve met feel that the climate in Atlanta is right on the edge of what is efficacious for free air use. This operator has adopted the new expanded ASHRAE temperature guidelines, and uses free air for at least part of the day, everyday for a five month period. Doing so is said to have shaved 5% off of their energy bill.
The third is the use of well water for make up in cooling towers. Granted, this operator is hardly alone in taking advantage of free ground water, but in an urban setting I found it rather unique.
Granted, none of this is revolutionary at all. My purpose in sharing it is because I’ve seen many larger operators pass on these same low cost, readily available options for reasons that are logically sound but perhaps over-complicating the issue. Then again, maybe it’s simply a reflection of the agility available to smaller operators with a smaller audience approving operational changes.