Enterprise demand for green data centers will drive supply

Instead of purchasing "standard boxes" for their data centers, companies should insist on eco-friendly equipment normally custom-built for market players purchasing in bulk, says industry expert.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor

SINGAPORE--If the business community demands for green capabilities to be built into servers, including standard boxes, vendors will be pushed to implement such functions across their entire line of products.

In his keynote speech at the Green Data Centre Forum here Thursday, Ray Pfeifer, co-chair of the Silicon Valley Leadership Groups' Data Center Efficiency Initiative, said companies such as cloud players currently are able to dictate the green requirements in their servers because they procure these systems in vast quantities. "For cloud players, cost is everything and what they are pushing for is custom-built servers," he said.

"When you buy servers in the thousands, you can basically have the servers built to your specifications in terms of low-power CPUs or lower-power component [for] better Opex (operating expense) or have them specifically tuned to your applications," Pfeifer added.

In comparison, enterprises typically buy "standard boxes" that are not tweaked to provide optimal green benefits, he said, but added that he hopes the situation will change when more companies specify their requirements and are willing to spend "a bit more" money for low-power servers.

He also pointed to a cooling method incorporated in Microsoft's ITPAC modular data center, which Pfeifer said has an indirect and direct evaporative cooling box, allowing the system to run at locations with high temperatures.

Servers such as the ITPAC are not available as off-the-shelf products, he said but noted that some vendors will be willing to integrate such cooling method if businesses ask for it.

"That's the important thing: if the industry demands this across the board...vendors will start operating these across their product lines, and not just for one company which is buying 20,000 of them," he added.

A local data center is already making such efforts. At the sidelines of the forum, Yow Tau Keon, managing director of 1-Net Singapore, said the company has been in talks with vendors about green products as part of ongoing discussions with stakeholders about green data centers.

Yow also highlighted the role of server and storage systems in green data centers. "We know that vendors are already making progress to come up with more green equipment," he said. "The starting point is always from the server and the storage. If the server and storage consumes [energy], the effect will multiply into the rest of the data center."

Singapore certifies green data centers
1-Net is one of seven companies to be certified under the Singapore Standard for Green Data Centers: Energy and Environmental Management Systems, or SS564. The certification program is a green data center framework and methodology developed by Singapore's IT Standards Committee (ITSC), Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) and Spring Singapore, and was gazetted on Jan. 7 this year.

Co-chair of the Green Data Center Work Group, Ronnie Lee, told ZDNet Asia that the standard establishes a system to assess the greenness of data centers, allowing companies to evaluate their status and implement the necessary improvements. Prior to the standard, there was not much basis to define green data centers in the country, added Lee, who is also IDA's executive manager, technology and planning group.

Pointing to the opening address at the forum today by IDA CEO Ronnie Tay, Lee said the current industry norm is that IT equipment utilizes only 30 percent of the energy consumed, while the rest is pumped into cooling, electrical and other duties. With the standard, Lee hopes to see a reversal of the ratio but confessed that it will take several years for that to happen.

Bruno Lopez, Keppel T&T CEO of Data Center Division, which is SS5640-certified, said the company had "from day one, designed and operated the data center with resource efficiency and low cost for customers in mind".

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