Data centers consume a high amount of electricity usage, and it is continuing to grow at a rapid pace. As a result, operators are starting to seriously consider alternatives to meet the ever-growing demand for data. In order to lower operating costs and comply with environmental regulations, certain data centers have started to optimize infrastructure and utilize green technology. Verne Global has designed a data center to utilize the natural elements of its location. By choosing Iceland, Verne has been able to harvest geothermal and hydro power for commercial electricity and free cooling. Tate Cantrell, Verne Global’s CTO recently spoke to Manufacturing Business Technology about Verne Global’s project and what’s behind the demand for data.
MBT: When you consider the operating costs for these data centers and what it takes to get them up and running or maintain them, how has this project specifically helped cut down on those costs?
Cantrell: While Iceland is green and is 100% renewable, it doesn’t take much market research to find out that companies, while they’d like to choose solutions that are green, won’t move simply because of that. We have to be a total-cost-of-ownership solution. What we found is substantial savings over companies in North America and Europe. It’s a great opportunity for companies not only to be able to put the green mark on products they offer from our facility in Iceland, but they will also save a lot.
One big cost is power. It’s big not only because of the percentage that it can take up of an operating budget, in some cases you can see the power costs associated with data center operations take up to 70% of the cost of what that data center is going to be outlaying in order to stay operational. We are easily a fifth or less of the cost you’d see elsewhere. So a company can literally take the servers that they are operating on a grid and move it to Iceland. They’ll be looking at 20 percent or less of what they’re paying on the United Kingdom market.
It’s really there that the savings start. But it doesn’t end there. We do a really good job with the efficiency with which we deploy our workforce. We are working very diligently with the vendors to provide manufacturer data center facilities that allow us to deploy efficiently. That also brings savings to our customers as well.
MBT: The increased availability of various web-based applications and the rise of cloud computing have put increased demands on these data centers. Can you discuss how this has transformed how data centers operate?
Cantrell: I can tell you we’ve done a lot of looking into what is driving the macro-economic demand for data centers. Chances are you have one reason in your pocket or you are holding it in your hand. A lot of has to do with the mobile device in terms of pushing cycles to the back end of the data center. If you think about it, what’s going on is pretty amazing. In 2011, for example, about 10% of the internet ran through the mobile device. While that may not sound like a lot, in 2009 it was 1 percent. The growth there is truly exponential. What’s going on with the applications that are being developed is they are trying to be light on the user side. They are also trying to be able to accommodate some of the inefficiencies on which they are built. These are unpredictable environments, but the application developers still want the user to have a rich interaction with their content. The question is where is that content going to live. It is certainly not going to live on that mobile device where you are trying to stay efficient in terms of operations.
It has started to push emphasis on two directions. One is content storage and content delivery. Delivery networks have really blossomed. Essentially it is cashing in on the content that’s current off the internet and on demand. What that allows the application developers to do is de-tether themselves from the data center so they can move their users away from their content. If there is something that is fresh and has been hit a lot and recently, it will be on those content delivery networks. That allows those data centers to operate independently, so to speak. That independent nature is what cloud is all about. It’s creating a nebulous view of the data center itself.
What we found is basically all applications that enterprises can, in some way, take advantage of a cost-savings opportunity that Iceland has to offer.
MBT: Performance is a critical question. How does it rate compared with other data centers?
Cantrell: We see that this is just growing. The improvements are just remarkable, really. The reason is that for so long the push has been how efficient your data center is and what’s been looked at is you’ve seen companies and individuals looking at cooling. That was really the only grade. What does it take to cool them?
What we’re seeing now is companies’ PUE numbers are getting down to respectable levels, kind of the industry standard. The standard is pretty much a 1.5, which means for every watt you use in a server you are using half a watt for cooling. We’re less than 1.2, so we’re better than the industry standard.
Organizations are starting to look more at how much functional output pushing per unit of energy. That has caused people to move in the direction of things like virtualization. One of the worst inhibitors of true data center performance was, in a lot of regards, computers were sitting there running at 10-15 percent capacity. They weren’t truly optimized. In a virtualized environment, especially one with software orchestration, we’re seeing huge growth in terms of efficiency. I will say there have been a lot of people trying to come up with a good industry metric. It seems like we are still in the stage where a lot of them are each trying to come up with their own way of presenting this type of thing.
Check out www.verneglobal.com to learn more.