June 2009 - Making Data Centers Greener

Communications Insider: June 2009: Volume 4 Issue 2

Making Data Centers Greener

In April of 2009, Microsoft estimated that data centers consume about 2% of U.S. power generation. They stated that just one of their fully loaded data centers could consume around 40 megawatts, or about the same as 20,000 to 40,000 homes. This is no surprise to anyone in the communications business, where the cost of electricity to operate large network facilities is a growing concern.

In a company as large as GE, data center efficiency is also an important issue. The company operates 14 data centers globally, as well as local data centers within the walls of many GE facilities. Collectively, this is hundreds of data centers worldwide, so the company has a vested interest in creating solutions to the issue of power consumption for its own benefit, and also for other companies with similar concerns.  

An Integrated Approach

Recently, GE tackled this issue at its data center in Cincinnati, leveraging the wide-ranging capabilities of the entire company to create solutions that could be implemented in GE facilities around the globe, and in data centers operated by other large companies and service providers.

The Cincinnati facility has 29,000 square feet of raised floor, 3800 IT devices, and consumes 24 million kWh of power each year. It runs 24/7/365, with complete multi-level redundancy of all major components to insure 100% uptime. In other words, it was a perfect test case for the needs of a majority of data and communications facilities of many different types.

Right from the start, it was apparent that there is no single solution to the issue of power consumption. Many factors are at play, including the power consumed by electronic hardware, the cost of cooling, air flow and water used in the cooling process. As a result, the solutions devised for the Cincinnati facility drew on the collective expertise of many parts of GE to create significant cost savings. These solutions are now summarized in a brief brochure which can be downloaded from the company web site.

Annual Energy Consumption Reduced By More Than 11 Percent and Water Usage By 20 Percent

In February of 2009, GE announced that its new technologies implemented at the Cincinnati facility will save the company more than 11 percent of the current annual energy used for cooling at its Ohio data center. In addition, the new solution will save two to three million gallons of water – or 20 percent – while also reducing use of water treatment chemicals at the facility by 50 percent. 

“GE technology can address more than 50 percent of data center energy usage from power supply, distribution, cooling and lighting, and its solutions can result in a 40 percent annual improvement in energy savings for non-IT systems,” said Greg Simpson, Chief Technology Officer, GE. “By combining cutting-edge products and technologies with an expertise in Building Management Systems, GE provides customers the solid foundation for any high technology infrastructure.”

Simple, Holistic View of the Data Center

The automation solution installed at the data center will provide a simple view of all operations with drill-down capabilities into specific functional elements and equipment. Through a dashboard application, the data center is provided with summary, comparative, and location operational performance data so that challenges and improvement opportunities can be quickly identified, quantified and acted upon. Compliance reporting and the ability to address future requirements, as well as provide easy modifications to these reporting needs, was a necessity. 

The Dashboard will have two main running views that can then be drilled down to the sensor level:
1) A simple visualization of all data centers that indicates both alarm condition by function, and various key performance indicators, including kW usage versus capacity.  
2) A more detailed look at an individual site, with deeper information by operational function, including a 13-month running trend of key operating metrics.

“Our immediate goal was to reduce cost,” said Simpson. “We needed to reduce water and electrical consumption and leverage ambient air for cooling during the winter months, reduce waste water and improve survivability to insure the data center doesn’t go down.” Other goals were to increase cooling capacity to keep pace with the growth of the number of servers, improve the center personnel’s ability to maintain the center efficiently, and automate manual processes.

To meet these needs, a team of professionals led by GE’s high-tech automation specialists, GE Fanuc Intelligent Platforms, and including GE Water & Process Technologies, GE Lighting Systems, GE Digital Energy and GE Security, provided a comprehensive solution that can be replicated in other centers around GE and in other companies around the world.

  • Water – GE is providing a reverse osmosis system that transforms drinking water into high purity water for industrial use at the data center. The new water solution reduces water usage and chemical treatment, which is equal to $6,000 per year.
  • Security – GE’s system includes access control, fire and life safety systems and video surveillance.
  • Power – Digital Energy contributed power management systems, power quality, and power supplies to make sure there is always electricity flowing to the center.
  • Lighting - With lamp and ballast changes plus lighting control, the changes made will pay back investment in just over one year, then the savings go right to the bottom line each year after.
  • Control – As automating processes was a key goal of the Data Center team, a contemporary GE Fanuc process solution that combines state-of-the-art hardware and software was installed as the automation infrastructure for the whole system.

As the first phase of the data center solution is completed, further functionality will be added throughout 2009. The planned rollout will continue with implementations in other major GE data centers in Georgia, Connecticut and Budapest.


Learn More

•  GE Data Centers Solutions Website