Featured B Corp of the Month: Green House Data Shows Why it is Cool to Focus on Heat Containment

We’re big supporters of the principles behind the B Corp movement, but we want to do more than just "spread the love" about it, we want to share the sustainability success stories from other B Corps!  Each month we’ll be publishing an interview with a sustainability champion of a B Corp – and this month we are featuring Green House Data!

Green House Data is a cloud hosting and colocation services provider with highly energy efficient, green data centers located across the country. The company helps its clients reduce the pressure that comes with lower IT budgets and increasingly high demands. Green House Data is a certified VMware service provider, SSAE 16 Type II and HIPAA compliant, as well as an EPA Green Power Partner.

What made your company decide that sustainability was a priority?

 Green House Data is a data center service provider that offers cloud hosting and colocation solutions for businesses of all sizes. Unfortunately, data centers have a growing reputation for their negative impact on the environment, which is driven by their huge power consumption and heavy reliance on carbon producing fossil fuels. In fact, it is estimated that 2% of global energy usage is from technology driven by data centers and Greenpeace recently reported that their energy demand is expected to grow by 81% by 2020.

When we began our business plan in 2007, we were already seeing how quickly the data center industry was growing, and knew that we wanted to make a difference for the environment through energy efficient design and the use of renewable energy resources. We wanted to not only offer a more sustainable data center solution for businesses, but we wanted to be an example of how it is possible to provide exemplary infrastructure and services which exceed customer expectations, while still offering competitive prices.

What is your company's greatest sustainability accomplishment to date?

Our cooling system designs have made the biggest impact to our sustainability efforts.  Servers perform their best when they are running in a climate-controlled environment. It varies by the server, but the optimal temperature range is between 68-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on both the data center design and geographic climate, it can be very costly to maintain this range, as it typically takes about as much energy to cool a server as it does to power that same server.

Traditionally data center operators would install HVAC systems that would cool the entire data center floor. In this type of layout, however, as servers pull in the cool air through the front and exhaust hot air out the back, there is a continual mixing of hot air and cold air and the cooling system has to work much harder to maintain the target temperature. If you’ve ever put your hand behind your computer, you can feel the hot air blowing out the back. Servers work very similar to this, although you may have hundreds or even thousands in one room.

Because of a focus on sustainability, Green House Data is able to maintain a 75% cooling cost reduction off industry averages. Both our location and facility design have allowed us to achieve this.

  • Location: We are headquartered in Cheyenne, Wyoming which has an average annual temperature of 46.4° F. This cool climate makes it possible for us to utilize filtered, outside air most of the year, with no additional cooling methods needed. Even as air temperatures rise in the summer months, the low humidity levels in the region allow us to use a low-energy, supplemental evaporative cooling system without requiring the use of refrigeration-based computer room air conditioning (CRAC) units.
  • Hot/Cold Aisle Containment: Green House Data employs a hot/cold aisle containment system, which keeps hot and cold air separate, so that our cooling system doesn’t have to constantly battle the hot air exhausted by the servers. The hot aisle is contained within thermal panels and the hot air is released through openings in the roof. 

What is the biggest sustainability challenge facing your industry today?

Historically, the industry has favored performance over energy efficiency, but it’s starting to see that it is possible to have both. However, in order to be sustainable, companies need to make a capital investment in energy saving technologies and plan to recoup those costs over time via energy savings. With the limited technology budgets of enterprise data centers and the need for public data centers to offer competitive prices, it can be hard to push those initiatives through budget seasons.

In the Greenpeace study, researchers highlighted how some of the bigger cloud industry players, with focus on Amazon Web Services, have a negative impact on the environment. Hopefully, this attention will encourage more focus on their climate impact and even the possibility of increased reliance upon renewable energy resources.

How do you stay on top of emerging sustainability issues?

In our industry, because the vast majority of sustainability impact comes from power efficiency, we’re always working towards designs that allow us to add capacity without increasing consumption. When we visit other data centers, we see very few operators as focused on heat containment (which maximizes the cooling efficiency) as we are. We custom built our containment to minimize the amount of heat bleed-out. For us, much of it is around having the most up-to-date technology and physical infrastructure.

Five years from now, what sustainability goals do you hope will be accomplished?

In the future, we hope to be able to start to produce some of our own onsite power via a renewable energy source, such as wind or solar power. The challenge is that it has to make sense financially for both our customers and our business. As new technologies to generate renewable energy are continually becoming available, it would be a great example for our industry to be able to tap into that effort and reliably power our facilities, while still providing competitive prices for our enterprise services.

Shawn Mills, President, is a technology entrepreneur and founding member of Green House Data. 

Contact Informationsmills@greenhousedata.com866.995.3282, @tshawnmills (Twitter)

Visit their website, www.GreenHouseData.com, to learn more, view demos, or request a free cloud trial.