Why It’s Cool To Be Kind by Ark Data Centres, 31st October 2016

Our interconnected world and the technology we rely on is becoming ever more complex, as intelligent connected devices produce data at unprecedented volumes. The U.S. technology research company Gartner estimates that the Internet of Things (IoT) will have 26 billion units installed by 2020, with IoT product and service suppliers generating incremental revenue of over $300 billion. Big data means big business.

Of course, processing large quantities of IoT data in real time will only increase the workloads of the world’s data centres, already vital to our global infrastructure.

As a result, huge demand for cloud services has led to predictions that data centres will account for a significant fraction of the planet’s energy consumption within the coming decade, with huge amounts of energy required for this data-driven revolution.

Last year, researchers at Imperial College London claimed that up to 200 litres of water could be involved in the download of a single gigabyte of data. Given that the average western European smartphone user consumed 1.9GB of data per month in 2015 – with the average rising to 3.7GB per month in the U.S. – it is a remarkable statistic.

Running in parallel with this exponential growth of data usage and storage however is a global shift towards more sustainable data centres, led in part by some of the world’s leading technology firms. Whether it is Microsoft trialling a new prototype underwater data centre, Facebook announcing a new, 57,000 square foot data centre in Ireland powered entirely by wind, or Amazon pledging to run its data infrastructure on 100% renewable energy, change and innovation is taking place across the data landscape.
Thankfully, you do not need to sink your equipment into the ocean, or move your operations to the Arctic Circle in order to keep your data cool. Industry best practice in sustainability can be found a lot closer to home. In particular – and perhaps unsurprisingly given Imperial’s research – we are now seeing an increasing level of focus on water usage in the industry.

In 2006, we saw the introduction of the PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) metric, which was promoted by the Green Grid, a non-profit organisation of IT professionals. For over a decade, PUE has been the most popular method of calculating a data centre’s energy efficiency. Indeed, Ark became the first in the industry to introduce guaranteed fixed PUEs to reduce operational cost risk.

There is now however a new efficiency player on the scene – also being promoted by the Green Grid – called WUE, or Water Usage Effectiveness.

Using evaporated water to cool the data centre atmosphere, or using water to chill pipes – both of which are methods still employed by the majority of data centres – at first might seem good common sense approaches. Energy consumption is kept low as traditional mechanical cooling methods are reduced. But where savings are made in power consumption, they are immediately lost in water bills. And in dry regions such as California where natural water resources are becoming ever more precious, the problem is clear.

Innovation has therefore shifted to more efficient ways of utilising water in the data centre cooling process. At Ark, for instance, we use adiabatic coolers, which are designed to operate only in high ambient temperatures. For the rest of the year – 99% in fact – we use ambient air to stop the cycle of heating and cooling that leads to data centres being like an oven inside a fridge. Our method means we don’t try to cool down the air we’ve just warmed up. Each modular data centre matches heating and cooling to IT demand. This innovative method comes with no carbon emissions and no cost.

We have also in recent years introduced rainwater harvesting at both our campus sites to offset water consumption.

Using less power to run and cool data centres automatically translates as less impact on the environment. But in modern day data centres, energy and efficiency is also arguably the biggest driver of cost. Indeed, energy consumption of IT equipment and cooling represents between 40% to 50% of the total overhead of that piece of infrastructure. From our customer’s point of view, good efficiency means significant cost savings.

Ark’s solution is a solution that is without compromise. It is tried and tested with every type of kit, uses less water, brings a reduction in maintenance and deploys 99% free cooling.

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