Syracuse University and IBM Corp. are building a new self-powered, energy-efficient computer data center that officials hope will become a model of green technology and help American schools and businesses save billions of dollars.

The key feature of the new $12.4 million building will be an onsite natural gas-fueled electrical generation system that will allow the center to operate entirely off the grid. The building, to be completed by the end of the year, is expected to use about half the energy of a typical data center, officials said at a groundbreaking ceremony on the Syracuse campus last month.

"We have learned how to move data at the speed of light, but we aren’t as efficient managing the energy that is required to do so," said Eric Spina, Syracuse’s vice chancellor and provost.

Although she wasn’t familiar with the Syracuse-IBM venture, Ashley Katz, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Council of Green Buildings, said all green buildings "are good for the environment, good for the bottom line, and good for people." In the U.S., buildings account for nearly 40 percent of the nation’s energy use, Katz said.

The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization has certified five data centers under its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green-building rating system, Katz said. Syracuse will apply for LEED certification once construction is completed, said university spokesman Mark Weldon.

Syracuse and IBM officials said the project addresses a critical concern for modern data centers run by schools, businesses, and other organizations around the world–ever-increasing energy consumption and cost driven by growing demand for computer services.

U.S. data centers–rooms filled with computers where organizations electronically store information–annually consume more than 62 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, the same amount used by approximately 5.8 million U.S. households, at a total cost of about $4.5 billion, Spina said.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, data centers consume an estimated 1.5 percent of the nation’s electricity and, if current trends continue, that could double by 2011.

"This is an industry problem that has turned into a crisis," said Vijay Lund, vice president for development and manufacturing operations in IBM’s systems and technology group.

Energy is often the single largest cost for U.S. data centers, and improving efficiency could save an estimated $2 billion a year nationally, Lund said.

The building will save energy by making its own power, making its own heat and air conditioning, cooling computers with water rather than air, and using computers more efficiently.

IBM intends to show the data center to clients designing new data centers or seeking to improve their current operations, Lund said.

IBM is contributing more than $5 million in equipment, design services, and support. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority is contributing $2 million to the project.

Links:

Syracuse University

Press release on new data center

IBM


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