Insight into Energy

October 2, 2012
Eric Shepcaro

Articles have recently appeared addressing electricity use in enterprise IT data centres and large cloud operators. I'd like to provide some insights regarding what a colocation, interconnection, and cloud enablement provider like Telx, the company I lead, is doing. We provide the raw infrastructure and critical connectivity required for other firms to do business. Something like the virtual world equivalent of an airport in the physical world, we not only provide space and power for a variety of companies to run their IT operations, but also for carriers (communications, rather than airlines) to hand off traffic to each other.

Data centre operators are very much concerned with efficient power infrastructure, both as a matter of economics and corporate responsibility. At Telx, we operate a distributed footprint of highly connected data centres across the U.S., from the East Coast to the West Coast, and from North to South. As we bring new state of the art data centres on line and recondition older facilities, several points are worth highlighting.

We're increasing our consumption of "green" power where available, collaborating with a variety of public and private sector entities to help drive increased usage of renewable energy. We believe that this in turn will create a virtuous cycle, driving increased availability of green energy.

We exploit a variety of the latest technologies in the pursuit of maximal energy efficiency, such as high efficiency uninterruptible power supply systems, "Energy Star" compliant transformers which are over 98% efficient, hot and cold aisle containment which maximise the efficiency of the cooling plant, and variable frequency drives on all fans, pumps, motors & chiller compressors, which minimise power consumption.

We control these elements via building management systems which enable us to automatically operate, hands free, specific equipment at low power consumption levels that are directly proportional to the IT load of the data centre. This absolutely minimises any wasted power.

Moreover, we use a "modular" approach to data centre turn-up, delivering blocks of power incrementally, thus minimizing the amount of "stranded power" in our systems, maximizing utilization and driving higher efficiencies throughout our infrastructure system. This is something like saving on electricity usage in your home by only adding on rooms as children are born.

Generators are rarely run. In our experience, they are run only 24 to 48 hours per year, for trialling and the rare utility outage. We believe that this provides the right balance of support for our clients' mission critical services with use of generator power.

Telx partners with innovative energy management customers such as Enernoc; to provide curtailment services for electric operator zones in New York, Chicago and Texas. As energy prices fluctuate with global supply concerns, a greater emphasis on demand-side energy management and the development of smart grid solutions is an important priority for us as we move forward. With the increased strain on our nation's energy grid, we have incorporated demand response programs in some of our critical facilities. The flexibility of demand response provides us with the ability to adapt to strains on the energy grid, save costs, and continue to serve our clients. In times of crisis, massive blackouts in cities shut down police departments, schools, hospitals and critical infrastructure. Demand response allows us to switch to generator power to alleviate the strain on the grid that can help reduce the severity and duration of blackouts that affect us all.

Clients choose Telx based on a variety of factors, including our preeminent locations, but also based on cost, of which a major component is power. It is therefore in the best interest of Telx and our clients for us to be able to compete effectively on this dimension. As a result, efficiency features are absolute table stakes when selecting mission critical equipment that goes into our data centres. Moreover, we work closely and collaboratively with customers on their implementations in our facilities.

In addition to the technology and design factors, the human dimension is perhaps equally important. Our engineering, construction, and operations teams are directly incented based on power efficiency. We have developed best practices and core expertise in managing processes in this area.

The world is transitioning to a digital economy, from atoms to bits. This digital economy, broadly ranging from social networks, games, and entertainment to life-saving advances in healthcare and drug discovery, creates jobs and opportunities for all. Some argue that data centres per se don't require many people to run them. This misses the point. A company like Google may only have a few dozen employees in each data centre, but employs over 50,000. None of those jobs would exist without the data centres that provide those digital services. Similarly, our business is creating quality jobs across our footprint, in engineering, sales and support, and operations.

At Telx, we believe we are playing a critical role as an enabler of the new economy, with complete alignment of rational economic self-interest, support for our clients’ diverse needs, corporate responsibility, and sustainability.

Eric Shepcaro is the CEO of the Telx Group.

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