Rackspace: a realistic green pioneer

The pace of green datacentre change: edging ahead but not racing

Rackspace provides datacentre facilities under a managed hosting scheme. It is building a new UK datacentre and has had a green aspect to its business for about a year and a half. How is that affecting its operations?

Techworld talked to Fabio Torlini, Rackspace's marketing director, about the greening of its datacentres and the green influences on it.

Can you give an overview of Rackspace's operation please?

We provide datacentre services through managed hosting with five datacentres in the USA and three in he UK. We have around 40,000 Dell and HP servers altogether. There are 1,600 employees in the USA and 330 in the UK.

Do you rent or lease space?

The three UK datacentres are actually space in co-location centres but we are consolidating them to our own new datacentre. We design the datacentre layout and are responsible for everything inside the walls except the customers' applications. For our customers we provide the racks, networking, routers, servers, security, services and storage. Our customers can't put anything (directly) into these data centres. They can't even go in. There's a window they can look through.

Are you interested in 'greening' your datacentres?

We decided to do it off our own backs. It's part of the company culture. Our customers weren't really pushing us, but they are supporting us. We kicked things off a year ago, planting trees for our customers. It's a tiny step. We knew that wasn't the solution.

We couldn't do zoned cooling in the co-lo datacentres. We pay for the electricity use and the co-lo owners couldn't care less. The co-lo infrastructure doesn't encourage green datacentres.

What have you done to increase power-efficiency?

The present co-location arrangements limits what Rackspace can do. Inside our space we've done what e can do so far. We changed from Intel to AMD processors because they were 20 percent more power efficient. We encouraged Dell to use AMD chips. It saves us money on power consumption and keeps our costs in check because the price of power is rising so quickly; it's doubling every year. It also lowers our carbon footprint and that's simply a good thing.

Do customers get any direct benefit from this, such as lower prices?

There is a price advantage for the customers in the long term but not the short term.

Do customers have any influence about what happens, concerning power efficiency and cooling in their managed datacentre?

No they don't. All they want is a datacentre service and that's what we deliver.

What's happening with the new datacentre?

In the new datacentre we're investing heavily in the cooling systems. We build the datacentre in suites and cool the occupied and working suites, not the whole room. The suites are partitioned-off areas, for customers, and we cool them using fresh air when possible. In the winter time heat will be dissipated naturally and it's in winter that you get the cost-savings. The new centre should be twenty percent more power-efficient because of this.

The new datacentre is located in the Slough area and its power comes from a power station run on recyclable energy sources and that's an added bonus.

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