NetApp, VMware light up new green data centers

Designed to provide millions of dollars of savings on energy costs each year

NetApp and VMware have each built highly efficient new data centers designed to provide millions of dollars of savings on energy costs each year, the vendors announced separately this week.

NetApp built a 132,000-square-foot facility in Research Triangle Park, N.C., which will house the bulk of its engineering operations and provide a disaster recovery site. With average temperatures of 74 degrees Fahrenheit, and efficient ways of delivering cool air to machines, the $45 million building's energy costs will be about $7.3 million less per year than a data center with average efficiency, according to NetApp.

"This is one of the most efficient data centers in the world," says NetApp founder Dave Hitz. "We did this using very innovative design, but mostly off-the-shelf components. This is a style of building data centers that pretty much anyone can do. It's normal stuff, just configured well."

The NetApp data center has a PUE (power usage effectiveness) rating of 1.2. That means for each watt of power used by IT equipment, an additional two-tenths of a watt is needed to distribute power to and cool that equipment. A typical PUE is about 2.0.

VMware's new data center, in East Wenatchee, Wash., will have a PUE between 1.2 and 1.5, and save the company about $4 million a year in energy costs, VMware said. The VMware data center uses hydroelectric power, airside economizers to take advantage of cool outside air, a hot aisle containment strategy and virtualization to meet its efficiency goals, the company said.

NetApp, meanwhile, said it is using cold aisle containment and pressure-controlled rooms that "regulate the volume of air to avoid oversupplying air and wasting energy." Airside economizers let NetApp use outside air 67% of the year, a strategy enabled by NetApp's decision to keep an average temperature of 74 degrees. Many data centers run as cold as 65 degrees, Hitz says.

"Lots of data centers use very cold air, much colder than you need," he says. "We can run the air up to 74 degrees if we're very careful about how it's routed through and actually pressurize some of the rooms."

Inside the data center, NetApp is using its own storage along with virtualized servers running at least eight virtual machines apiece. A cloud-like network will provide remote access to the data center for NetApp engineering laboratories worldwide. The data center supports 2,166 racks and a designed power load of 25 megawatts.

About half of the facility is powered up so far, and NetApp expects it will be able to accommodate the company's growth through 2019. Prior to building the new facility, NetApp's engineering data centers were scattered randomly around various office buildings, and the company is in the process of shutting down many of those little IT operations.

"For engineering, our goal is to consolidate as much as possible into this data center," Hitz says.

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