Imagine a data center that requires no net energy from traditional power grids. Hewlett-Packard is pushing beyond the dream in a research paper called "Towards the Design and Operation of Net-Zero Energy Data Centers."
The research paper shows how the architecture, combined with holistic energy-management techniques, paves the way for organizations to cut total power usage by 30 percent, as well as dependence on grid power and costs by more than 80 percent.
HP will be showcasing the HP Net-Zero Energy Data Center architecture at HP Discover, the company's premier client event, which takes place beginning Monday and running through the week in Las Vegas.
With the HP Net-Zero Energy Data Center research, HP is working to bring the potential to operate data centers using local renewable resources, removing dependencies such as location, energy supply and costs. That, the company said, opens up the possibility of introducing IT services to organizations of all sizes.
Lowering Data Center Costs
"Information technology has the power to be an equalizer across societies globally, but the cost of IT services, and by extension the cost of energy, is prohibitive and inhibits widespread adoption," said Cullen Bash, a distinguished technologist at HP and interim director of the Sustainable Ecosystems Research Group at HP Labs. He went on to say that the HP Net-Zero Energy Data Center aims to reduce both the environmental impact of computing and the associated energy costs.
HP offered an example of the net-zero energy data center in action: Noncritical, delay-tolerant workloads could be scheduled during daylight hours to coincide with solar supply for data centers equipped with photovoltaic energy generation. In this way, HP explained, demand can be shaped according to resource availability to reduce reliance on nonrenewable resources.
As a result, organizations can lower overall data-center costs -- from capital investment in upfront infrastructure technology to the operational costs of workload execution -- enabling more customers to take advantage of IT services.
Not Entirely New
We caught up with Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, to get his perspectives on the theory. He told us some of the concepts aren't entirely new.
"Dell has been selling fresh-air cooled containerized data centers for over a year now," King said. "Dell has a demonstration with one of these units siting on top of a skyscraper in Arizona in 110-degree weather. Dell basically came up with a design for its servers where they can run much hotter than traditional servers. Some of this stuff is here already, but HP isn't selling it."
King said the idea of running a data center on renewable energy is not new either. Still, he said, HP should be credited for pursuing the ideas outlined in its research paper and claiming there are commercial applications.
"Funding for HP Labs was cut significantly under Mark Hurd. Meg Whitman believes HP's R&D effort needs more funding, especially since they are going to be looking to develop more products internally rather than going out and buying companies," King said. "It wouldn't surprise me if this was just the first of several forward-thinking HP Labs projects announced in the next few months."