The part of cloud computing which is often not given a thought is the usage of mega-servers. Using cloud computing in the ways we do – be it to store our information and suchlike using cloud hosting or cloud storage – requires large servers, and these in turn produce heat. In order to keep these servers running smoothly, they must be cooled, which can use a lot of energy, but more organisations are turning to alternative methods for cooling.
Air-cooling is often used to keep server temperatures at an optimum, but many organisations, such as the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), are now turning to water-cooling methods to help cool their cloud servers.
Lukewarm water is more energy efficient than the traditional usage of cold water, which is used to blow cold air through raised platforms on the floor. This is a much more laborious method and the usage of lukewarm water will mean that the offices will be warmer in general, and more heating will not have to be used to keep the areas in which the staff are active warm.
Using water to cool such a system is around 1000 times more efficient that using air, and shifts in trends are seeing the method become more and more popular. The use of water instead of air also radically reduces noise pollutions, and can therefore be less disruptive.
This move in turn will save NREL money, with estimates being put at $800,000 a year for the general system, and an extra $200,000 which would have been used to pay for heating in the offices, which will no longer be necessary due to the warmer temperatures.
The move to a more energy efficient way of cooling servers is both an economically and environmentally sound one. Not only will the move save money, but it will also pave the way for similar schemes to be produced in other environments, and for the environmental benefits to be felt as well.
Other alternatives to air-cooled systems do exist, and in fact, individuals and companies have been experimenting with oil to cool systems for a while, but this is a big step in the right direction towards a more eco-friendly cloud. If we can do this now, who knows what we can do in the future!
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