PGi Green Data Center: Cost Efficiency brings Environmental Savings
The following article is based on an interview with Aaron Lafferty, PGi Director of Corporate IT Infrastructure Engineering.
Content provided by Lea Green, PGi Social Media Manager
Article originally published on PGiGreenBlog.
Building green can mean many things and run a spectrum of choices. Gaining formal LEED certification remains a daunting process and formidable expense for many companies, but often times for companies looking to go green, informal choices can add up to smart savings. Recently, I spoke with Aaron Lafferty and we discussed the PGi data center and our own approach to green IT computing—as it turns out, PGi began the search looking for cost efficiency but found green solutions. Recent press of neither the Apple iCloud nor the Facebook open model had launched, and yet, green thinking isn’t news to Lafferty or his facilities and management teams.
Certifications are not Lafferty’s concern; efficiency is. And the PGi data center in Olathe, Kansas is incredibly efficient. Before any purchase was made, a great deal of thought was committed to the design, IT architecture and what it means to have a green data center.
Data centers, or IT centers, are essentially an organization’s repository for data. Creating a green data center involves the consideration of computer equipment, mechanical and electrical systems, and building construction as they contribute to the design and output of maximum energy efficiency and minimum environmental impact.
As Lafferty explains, “Building a green data center can be expensive up front, but long-term cost savings are already being seen on operations and maintenance, not to mention the benefits to the environment.” What Lafferty doesn’t have to say as he describes the PGi facility with great detail and pride in his voice is that another significant advantage to green data centers is that they can provide employees a healthier work environment.
Consider your footprint
Lafferty and his team first conducted a comprehensive audit of their data center needs. At least one term one set: Lafferty’s previous facility was 5,000 square feet and his new data center was less than half that at 2,000 square feet. He knew immediately he had to think creatively. Among other considerations, the team examined what they would need for energy, coolant, and space to accommodate the size of the computer equipment. They asked themselves how, as IT professionals, do they build equipment in the most efficient way possible? Like playing a game of Tetris, PGi facilities and IT organized the server racks and planned for the 60 percent reduction in space. The green data center was beginning to take shape—by reducing the overall size of the data center and using space more effectively, less energy and lower maintenance costs were a natural next step.
Understand your energy requirements
Power consumption is typically a huge draw for data centers, and Lafferty began researching energy consumption next. In the old building, all the equipment was run on 120V. By choosing a new building that supports 240V electrical systems, Lafferty and his team cut the PGi data center energy output in half and machines ran more efficiently throughout. As he described the choice, “It was something we could automatically hang our hat on—it was a no-brainer.”
Related costs as a source of innovation
By examining related costs and not just the costs of hardware, Aaron Lafferty explains, and looking at alternative heating and cooling for the data center, PGi was able to realize a significant portion of their cost savings.
We constructed a “cold row,” a highly specialized, intelligent cooling system that consolidates cool air, recognizing where it needs to be distributed within the system, and then targets that area, focusing the cool air efficiently in the areas requiring it, and requiring 75% less coolant tonnage. The new coolant system uses water, taking 275 gallons per minute with temperatures from 45 coming into the data center and 55 degrees going back out to the chiller. In Olathe, Kansas, the temperatures fall below 45 degrees for at least six months out of the year, so the artic chiller can draw from simple outdoor air to cool the water. The natural, energy efficient choice doesn’t emit a carbon footprint during winter months—literally, the planet is a part of what makes this data center green.
The cooler Kansas climate was a factor in other choices as well. Additionally, PGi converted to natural gas as a primary fuel source. By purchasing five natural gas generators—each an efficient engine with a small footprint—the data center can lose one if there is a city outage due to blizzards. Lafferty’s plan for redundancy means he doesn’t have to worry about fuel delivery now, in case there is a freeze in KS (road inaccessibility). The PGi data center is off the city power grid, a savings to the city and the environment.
Results to date
Because the initial investment of $1.5 million for the facility and related costs, Lafferty explains that the data center has saved PGi $4.5 million in its first year when savings from the datacenter footprint, server virtualization and energy efficiencies were combined with telecommunications and telephone circuits efficiencies. In addition, the green data center builds relationships with its surrounding community. Growing demand from environmentalists and the general public for the creation and maintenance of green technologies creates the need to find cost-effective solutions so businesses can still meet the bottom line. Ecological responsibility and efficiency can unite in smart, innovative ways.
Would you like to learn more about the software innovations in PGi’s green data center? We also have a Microsoft® case study available for additional information.
The content above was provided by PGi and is not subject to MNN Editorial Review. MNN is not responsible for the accuracy, objectivity or balance of this content.