HP attempts to build zero net energy data centre

The maker of expensive printer ink, HP, is attempting to build a data centre which runs on solar power.

HP wants to develop what is called a “net zero” data centre that requires no net energy from utility power grids. The concept is being tested at a 3,000 square foot facility at the company’s campus in Palo Alto, California.

According to Datacentre Knowlege, which we get for the centrefold, the HP testbed uses a photovoltaic power array, a cooling system that can use either fresh air or mechanical cooling, and consolidation strategies that boost server use to reduce power demand.

Although the solar hardware would appear to be the key to the cunning plan, the secret is the data centre’s management software that can orchestrate the energy supply and demand to maximise the use of renewable power and reduce dependence on the utility grid.

The solar array has a limited capacity of 134 kilowatts and can only generate power when the sun shines. The testbed comprises of four ProLiant BL465c G7 servers, each with two 12-core 1.8 Ghz processors and 64 GB of memory and a total of 48 KVM virtual machines.

The data centre software allocates traffic so that it is a mix of critical and non-critical workloads.

The software estimates the output available from the solar array and the power required to run the applications, and then schedules workloads to take advantage of the daytime power peaks from the array.

It will not work for facilities that need round-the-clock availability and the ability to scale workloads up and down. But HP said it could be attractive to users with mixed workloads, particularly companies in international markets.

HP Labs researchers will present a new research paper, “Towards the Design and Operation of Net-Zero Energy Data Centers,” at IEEE’s 13th annual Intersociety Conference on Thermal and Thermomechanical Phenomena in Electrical Systems. You should get there early as we expect them to be queuing around the block to get into this one.