For those of you planning to be in the Bay Area Thursday April 12th, I will be participating as a panel member at the Northern California Data Center Summit. This event takes place in the Santa Clara Convention Center. The agenda looks quite interesting with a strong focus on technology, business, and social trends shaping the future of the data center industry.
In preparing for this panel discussion I got to thinking about a recent conversation with data center operator who was considering building a new ultra-efficient, hyperscale facility. One with a design PUE in the 1.2 – 1.3 range, access to ‘green’ (debatable) energy, plenty of low-cost water, and an environment that enabled the use of some interesting cooling technologies. This site would hold over 100,000 servers at build-out which was estimated within 12-months of the initial launch.
The design was quite impressive, as was their use of ECO-mode UPS operation. Something that is a bit unique in the market but after an extensive study of the regional and local grid they grew comfortable with the concept while keeping the option to run the +1 unit in normal mode. I congratulated them on their well thought out building design inclusive of a ground-up DCIM package.
Then things got really interesting when I asked a few ‘simple’ questions. Questions that go beyond the building and into the arena of the data center business eco-system (think Green Grid), somewhat touching on ‘sustainability’. For example; how frequently will you be replacing the servers? (4-year cycle) What volume per year/month of servers do you expect to refresh, excluding failures? (25,000/yr about 2,000/month) Do you know what 2,000 servers looks like and are you ready to handle that volume of work and the logistics associated with the task? (50 racks or several ISO shipping containers)
I then put the entire data center project on the hot seat by drilling into their recycling plans. How do you plan to manage the recycling of the inbound packaging materials? (Local utility district has a certified program) How far will they be hauling the packaging materials for processing and what is the percentage that goes W-T-E (waste-to-energy), reconditioned, reused, recycled, and landfill? (No answer) What is your recycling plan for the servers? (actually had an answer other than RTV – evaluating a third-party service firm)
So I congratulated them on their reasonably well thought out plan as I mention that the nearest fully certified e-waste and ICT asset recycling facility capable of addressing not only their ‘sustainability’ requirements, but also address data security, is more than 300 miles of highway and one entire state away. If they are genuinely serious about making a ‘green’ statement with their new data center maybe, just maybe, they should rethink some of their supply chain and business eco-system logistics. Perhaps an alternate site will have a better overall eco-system net impact.
It is a lot easier to push electrons than ship and re-ship atoms.
Hope to see you in Santa Clara.
Send me an email on how you are handling your server refresh & recycling. I’d appreciate the insights.
Follow me on Twitter @JackPouchet or on a bike at the LA Velodrome