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Green with Envy

Syracuse University’s energy efficiency is worth coveting

Syracuse University’s energy efficiency is worth coveting
Photography courtesy of IBM

Money. Equipment. Space. Time. An inefficient data center can cost you all of these things. But an efficient one that includes IBM server technology can save them, and the environment. The newly opened Syracuse University (SU) Green Data Center (GDC) proves just that.

IBM partnered with the university and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to create one of the most efficient data centers in the world, one that will serve as the model for data centers of the future. The Syracuse University Green Data Center comprises several innovative features that promise to reduce primary energy consumption by as much as 50 percent compared with a conventional utility-powered data center.

Facilities Efficiencies

Half of a data center’s energy consumption is IT, and the other half is facilities (most of which is cooling), says Bob Hanson, IBM Systems and Technology Group innovation leader. For the past 20 to 30 years, IBM has focused on the IT side of the data center power consumption, striving for more and more energy-efficient computers. Now, for the past two to three years, IBM and its business partners have focused on the facilities side. Using analytical techniques, IBM and SU are developing new modeling and simulation tools to analyze and recommend energy-efficiency changes to customer data centers. These new tools will be running on an IBM POWER6* processor-based P575 super computer recently installed at SU.

Now, for the past two to three years, IBM and its business partners have focused on the facilities side as well. At the SU data center, facilities improvements include a direct current (DC) power-distribution system, a closed-loop water-cooling system, on-site energy generators and advanced systems-management software.

The data center’s most important feature is the 12 micro turbines that generate power on-site, explains Hanson. These natural-gas-fueled engines generate all of the electricity for the center and all of the energy to cool the computer systems. Additionally, several layers of power backup are provided, including redundant micro turbines, a propane supply to back up the natural gas, and a power grid connection allowing operation on- or off-grid. This means it’s not only one of the world’s most energy-efficient data centers, but also one of the most reliable.

“The Green Data Center is significantly more efficient than the 30-percent efficiency of a typical coal power plant.”
—Bob Hanson, innovation leader, IBM Systems and Technology Group


Natalie Boike is a former IBM Systems Magazine managing editor.


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