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Syracuse U Constructs Green Data Center

Syracuse University has finished constructing its new Green Data Center on its New York campus. When the center becomes fully operational in January, it's expected to use about 50 percent less energy than a more traditional data center. Announced in May 2009 and constructed in a little more than six months, the $12.4 million, 12,000-square-foot facility (half of which consists of raised-floor data center space) uses an on-site power generation system for electricity, heating, and cooling, and incorporates energy efficient hardware.

The university will use the center as its primary computing facility. In 2010 the institution will partner with IBM to establish a new Analysis and Design Center to offer research and analysis services for other organizations that want to build their own energy efficient data centers or optimize the energy efficiency of current operations.

To date, IBM has provided $5 million in equipment, design services, and support to the project, including supplying the power generation equipment, IBM BladeCenter, IBM Power 575 and z10 servers, and a DS8300 storage device. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority contributed $2 million to the project.

The power generation equipment consists of an on-site electrical tri-generation system that uses natural gas-fueled microturbines to generate all the electricity for the center and cooling for the computer servers. The center will be able to operate off-grid. IBM and SU teamed up to create a liquid cooling system that uses chillers to pass exhaust heat from the microturbines through chilled water to cool the data center's servers and the cooling needs of an adjacent building. Server racks incorporate "cooling doors" that use chilled water to remove heat from each rack more efficiently than conventional room-cooling methods. Sensors will monitor server temperatures and usage to tailor the amount of cooling delivered to each server--further improving efficiency.

The center also incorporates a direct current (DC) power distribution system on-site. In a typical data center, according to IBM, alternating current (AC) electricity is delivered by a central power plant through the local utility's electric grid and then converted to DC to power the servers, a process that leaks energy. By directly generating DC power on site, transmission and conversion losses are eliminated.

The center was designed and built by Syracuse-based VIP Structures. The project is registered with the U.S. Green Building Council, and the university is seeking silver certification under the US GBC's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

According to the university, as part of the green nature of the construction, 99 percent of all construction waste generated so far has been recycled--about 1,200 tons.

"Together, IBM and Syracuse are tackling a significant problem--how to address the skyrocketing amount of energy used by today's data centers, which is impacting businesses and institutions of all sizes," said Vijay Lund, vice president for cross-IBM offerings in IBM's Software Group. "We looked beyond conventional wisdom and addressed the broader issues of where and how to generate the electricity, how to cool the data center and how to make the computers more effective and efficient. This unique end-to-end focus has resulted in a smarter, cost-effective, greener data center."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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