Sustainable data center

Typical data centers consume significant amounts of energy. A 2011 study reported that data center power consumption in 2010 accounted for between 1.7% and 2.2% of total electricity use in the United States.1

The sustainable data center project is a large-scale rethinking of how data centers are designed, built, and operated. Managed by HP Labs, HP's central research arm, the aim is to develop a facility that consumes net zero energy from nonrenewable sources over its entire life cycle, from resource extraction and manufacturing to operation and end of life.

This means moving away from sources like the public power grid and relying on local micro-grids of renewable energy to offset all or most of a data center's energy needs. HP Labs has also created an IT infrastructure that dynamically allocates resources to shape demand, so the data center receives the resources it needs when it needs them—and no more.

In pilot tests, HP Labs is using local microgrids of renewable energy to reduce a data center's reliance on grid power. HP expects to reduce reliance on the grid by more than 75% while significantly lowering operational costs—contrary to the view that sustainability requires companies to "pay more to be green." This shift to renewable energy microgrids can reduce a data center's carbon footprint by an equivalent 75%.

HP Labs is currently deploying many of its sustainable data center technologies in test labs, including advanced cooling technologies at HP Labs' Fort Collins, Colorado, data center and renewable power technologies at HP Labs' worldwide headquarters in Palo Alto, California. The sustainable data center project has also generated low-energy innovations that have been incorporated into such HP products and solutions as the HP Data Center Smart Grid, which enables customers to double or triple their data center capacity,2 and the HP POD 240a (nicknamed HP EcoPOD), a modular, energy-efficient data center that uses 95% less facilities energy.3

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1 "Growth in Data Center Electricity Use 2005 to 2010," Jonathan Koomey, Analytics Press, August 1, 2011.

2 Based on internal HP data.

3 New POD technology from HP offers 95% greater energy efficiency compared with a traditional brick-and-mortar data center, based on internal HP testing.