UN Taps Microsoft for Green Data Center Tech

Fri Apr 1, 2011 12:29pm EDT

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The United Nations has opted to use Microsoft’s green pre-fab “data center in a box” technology for its new office in Nairobi, Kenya. Dubbed ITPAC (IT pre-assembled components), the technology can reduce the energy costs associated with a data center and will help the U.N. make its new Nairobi office energy-neutral. (To learn more about green data center tech come to Green:Net on April 21 in San Francisco)

ITPAC is manufactured by air cooling company Saiver, and the tech uses outside air for cooling, which cuts out the power-hungry chillers that are used in most data centers to keep servers cool. Cooling can traditionally suck up a good half of the energy consumption of a data center.

The ITPAC system is modular — like the shipping container data centers you might have seen out there — and is basically plug-n-play with the servers and everything (see video below). The data center operator doesn’t need to actually construct the building, so this also reduces the need for concrete, steel, piping, copper etc.

Microsoft says the Power Usage Effectiveness metric (or PUE) — which measures the energy efficiency of a data center — of its latest data centers using this technology is between 1.05 and 1.15., though the final PUE of the U.N.’s Nairobi ITPAC data center is yet to be determined.

A PUE of 1 for a data center is excellent, while a PUE of 2 is not so good. Google has touted data center designs that can deliver a PUE of 1.2. The current average PUE for data centers, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, is a pretty high 1.92.

Yahoo’s VP of Data Center Engineering & Operations Scott Noteboom told me last year that he thinks high PUEs for Internet companies’ data centers will not be a sustainable competitive offering going forward. That’s an “exciting change that has happened in this business recently,” Noteboom told me.

At Green:Net, Microsoft’s Environmental Strategist Rob Bernard will talk about the company’s green data center designs and its connected cities projects. We’ll also be featuring a discussion at Green:Net between Google’s Green Energy Czar Bill Weihl and Yahoo’s Director, Climate and Energy Strategy, Christina Page, about green data center tech, and Greenpeace will release new data on clean power and the cloud.

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