Friday, June 3, 2011

Practical steps towards a greener, energy-efficient cloud

(Cross-posted from the European Public Policy Blog)

Data centers are very important to us—they’re critical to the cloud services we deliver. Over the last 12 years, we’ve put a lot of effort into minimizing the amount of energy, water and other resources we use—because it makes financial sense, and because it’s good for the environment too. That work means that today, we use half the energy of a typical industry data center.

Last week, we brought together more than 150 industry professionals in Zürich, Switzerland for our second conference on data center efficiency. Since our first conference two years ago in the U.S., the industry’s come a long way, with large operators now very focused on energy efficiency.

With “free cooling” we can dramatically reduce energy consumption by using the local environment to cool servers, instead of energy-intensive chillers. In our data centers we use both air cooling and evaporative cooling—and we revealed the details of the seawater cooling system we’ve custom-engineered for our new data center in Hamina, Finland.

Google is lucky enough to have the resources and experts to continually improve efficiency. But around 70% of the world’s data centers are operated by companies that probably don’t.

That’s why we shared five simple and low-cost steps that any company, large or small, can use. These include using plastic meat locker curtains to separate hot and cold air, or welding your own air-conditioning chimney out of cheap sheet metal. These techniques are proven to increase energy efficiency, reduce electricity consumption and improve environmental footprint.

We also announced that we’re now participating in the European Commission’s Code of Conduct for Data Centres, a framework for designing and operating data centers efficiently. It ties in closely with the way we build and run our facilities, and has a robust checklist of efficiency best practices that are well worth trying out.

The main take-away was that there is no magic in data center efficiency. With the right information and a bit of creativity, anyone can make their computing infrastructure efficient. If you operate a data center or server room, please visit our website and make use of the techniques we’ve outlined. Videos of all the presentations from the Summit will be available on the site next week.

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