What’s in a Data Center? Less and Less Energy and Water

| Josh Henretig

Our colleagues in Global Foundation Services are dedicated to reducing the environmental footprint of Microsoft’s data centers. Brian Janous published a blog post on the GFS Blog today that outlines Microsoft’s commitment to limiting our footprint. For the past years we have concentrated on improving power usage effectiveness (PUE), which is the ratio of total data center power consumption to server-related power consumption. This figure is one metric that helps us tune our data centers for efficiency.

But in addition to limiting the energy required to operate data centers, we are also focused on limiting the use of water, which is traditionally used in data center cooling systems. As Brian notes in the GFS blog post, we have been able to reduce the need for water cooling by designing air-cooled data centers, as we’ve recently done in Iowa, Ireland, Virginia and Washington. These data centers are designed to use only 1 to 3 percent of the water needed in a traditional data center—and with no waste water.

In addition, the carbon neutrality commitment that Microsoft unveiled earlier this year has created a direct financial incentive to reduce carbon footprint across the company – from design, to siting, to operations. This effort will take a number of shapes in the coming year, but for data centers it means that carbon emissions from data centers will be offset by purchases of renewable energy or carbon offsets. Expect to hear more from us in the coming months on how the carbon fee will enable deeper investments in renewable energy. In the meantime, check out the GFS Blog for a detailed take on energy and water efficiency in Microsoft’s data centers.

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