Technology is beginning to attract a bad reputation from executives concerned with the corporate impact on the environment. In many companies, that IT powerhouse the data centre represents is a big part of the problem, as it devours energy at alarming rate. And yet chip maker Intel has come up with the novel idea of making its own data centre the cornerstone of its latest environmentally-conscious design plant.
At its new design centre in Haifa, Israel, Intel has embarked on a painstaking process of building as energy efficient a data centre as possible. And while there is no escaping IT’s capacity for consuming power – the data centre consumes over half of the total electricity consumed on-site – Intel has identified a means to ensure it is as ‘green’ as possible.
Every piece of equipment in the data centre has been chosen on the basis of energy efficiency, explains Peter Banton, one of Intel’s commercial site directors. As might be expected, the servers are based on some of Intel’s own energy-efficient processors. But efficient processors are only half the story, says Banton: other data centre equipment, from power supplies to fans and chillers, is chosen for its energy efficiency characteristics. Even the cable runs have been specifically tailored to minimise power loss.
Other energy-savings tricks include a network of motion sensors, which ensure that the lights are turned off when areas are vacant.
But even in this eco-conscious data centre, there is still waste. The computer components cannot be 100% efficient, and so some of the electricity is inevitably converted into heat. But to minimise the cooling requirement, the data centre has been designed to scavenge heat and redirect it to where it is needed. With the data centre situated in the basement, the rising heat is funnelled away to be used throughout the building. And while central heating may not be a priority all the year round in sunny Haifa, the cost-free heating for the showers in the gym is a boon. So successful is the heat scavenging that no other heating sources are needed for the building.
Such environmental concern comes at a cost, and although Banton refuses to be drawn on exact figures (he is only willing to admit that the green features add somewhere between 2% and 2.5% to the capital costs), he expects to see a return on investment through savings on electricity “within two to five years”.