Disney talks green in the data centre

Companies are going green, but measuring efficiency is still a challenge.

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Energy efficiency in the data centre is a top priority for Disney and Verizon, technology executives from the companies said last week. But the industry is still in the early stages of understanding how best to measure effectiveness.

Disney has a company-wide goal to reduce electricity consumption by 10% between 2006 and 2013, and the data centre has to play a big role in achieving that objective, says Denis Weber, director of IT critical facilities infrastructure for the Walt Disney Co.

For Disney, energy efficiency is being achieved through a series of small improvements, Weber said.

"Some of it just comes down to cleaning the facility up," Weber says. "And I don't mean with a dust pail and so on and a broom, but cleaning the data centre up from obstructions and ensuring that every one of our floor tiles is sealed properly for air flow. Blanking panels--not only that we have them but that they're in the right spot. Variable speed fans and motors on our CRAC units, increasing temperature settings across the board. These are all things that are not unique to Disney. But we have done it and that's where we've started to make progress."

Disney and Verizon officials discussed their energy efficiency programs at the New York Stock Exchange last week during an event hosted by the Green Grid industry consortium.

"As much as people may look for silver bullets … it's really about all the [little] things," says Jeannie Diefenderfer, senior vice president of global engineering and planning for Verizon Services Organization. One key is finding the right temperature, and the right setting might vary across different parts of the data center, she says.

"Are you trying to make it cooler or hotter? Well it's both, right?" Diefenderfer says.

"And that's exactly what we're all doing, trying to figure out if you can tolerate the hotter temperature in any of these centres by making sure the IT computing infrastructure can tolerate it, and making certain parts of the data centre cooler so the critical infrastructure actually gets the cooling that it needs."

Still, Verizon is contemplating a more ambitious project involving solar energy. Diefenderfer says the company is trialing the use of solar for backup power sources, "with a full intent to use it if the results look positive." Verizon is also considering the use of hydrogen fuel cells, she says.

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