Savvis gets savvy-er about when to retrofit and when to start anew with data centers

Welcome to my latest post in the Greenest-Data-Center-of-them-all blog series. This brief entry comes courtesy of my chat last week Jim Kozlowski, vice president of hosting service for data center operator Savvis, which just opened a new facility in the Chicago area.

Welcome to my latest post in the Greenest-Data-Center-of-them-all blog series. This brief entry comes courtesy of my chat last week Jim Kozlowski, vice president of hosting service for data center operator Savvis, which just opened a new facility in the Chicago area. The actual press release detailing the opening of the facility can be found on this page.

OK, so Savvis isn't claiming to have the greenest data center bar none. So relax, because this isn't a propaganda post. Seriously, though, Kozlowski's team does know a thing or two about building energy-efficient hosting and colocation facilities, what with having opened something like seven facilities in the past 18 months (with another two more to come in the very near future outside the United States). The company operates 29 data centers around the world.

While every location presents different challenges, there are three factors that are critical to green data center design. None of these things is really a huge revelation for those of you in the game day-to-day. But that doesn't mean they're always easy to pull off.

The first (surprise) has to do with the simple aisle configuration and where hot aisles and cool aisles are placed. Even in colocation situations, where other companies are using Savvis' facility to house their own infrastructure, the company dictates the design of where aisles are placed and mapped out. "People can't just put their servers anywhere," Kozlowski says.

Second, Savvis does everything in its power to use whatever free cooling options are available in a given geographic location. In the new Chicago operation, as an example, it'll be able to take care of winter-time air to keep things cool. Not so easy at its facilities in Texas or Georgia, but a consideration nonetheless. Since data centers kinda need to be where businesses are located (at least right now, philosophically speaking), this won't always be possible.

Third, the company uses variable speed fans that can be cycled on and off as necessary to handle peaks and valleys of heat. (You'll more and more about this as you talk to companies that are adoption energy-efficiency policies.) Why run the cooling all the time when you really just need it during certain hours of the day?

A final bonus consideration: Savvis is beginning to use alternative energy sources whereever possible although it doesn't foresee a day soon when all of its data center electricity needs are served by renewable energy. As an example, Savvis' next new data center in the United Kingdom, near Slough, will get about 10 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, Kozlowski says.

It's a start.

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