Yahoo's Chicken Coop Data Center: Sometimes Low Tech Solutions Are Better

Last Updated Sep 20, 2010 4:05 PM EDT

Yahoo's (YHOO) new unconventional data center, which is designed like a chicken coop to use outdoor air for cooling, not only recognizes the tie between profits and power hungry data centers, it's also a nod towards low tech solutions.

It's not a new problem. Data centers in the U.S. account for about 1.5 percent of U.S. electricity usage, according to the EPA. Companies like Hewlett-Packard (HP), Google (GOOG) and Microsoft (MSFT) are constantly adding data centers to power all of our Internet searches and cloud-computing activities -- and they're all looking for ways to boost efficiency. The more efficient the data center, the lower the energy costs. Not to mention fewer emissions. In short, the ability to compete with their rivals is tied directly to the efficiency of their data centers.

The problem is big enough to allow a whole new industry to take root. For instance, green data center start-up Power Assure makes software that ties its power consumption to server usage. Meaning, when Internet traffic drops off at night, the software dials down power consumption and vice versa. The company just received a $1.5 million investment from ABB, the Swiss-based electrical equipment company.

But Yahoo has turned to design and just as importantly, location, to increase the efficiency of its data centers. Yahoo's 120-foot by 60-foot data center is designed to re-circulate cool outside air, much like a chicken coop does. And it's located in western New York, an area with the climate, wind and hydropower infrastructure to exploit the chicken coop design.

Here's what the chicken coop server building will do:
  • Consume at least 40 percent less energy and use at least 95 percent less water than conventional data centers;
  • The data center has a low power usage effectiveness of 1.08, compared with the industry average of 1.92, according to the EPA. That means 92 percent of the power consumed by the center actually goes towards computing functions.
  • Less than 1 percent of power will be used to cool the facility. Or as Yahoo puts it: the company will spend less than one cent for cooling for every dollar spent on electricity.
Related:
  • Kirsten Korosec

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