Sustainability Behind the Scenes: Colby Data Center

August 25, 2015

Colby’s Information Technology Services (ITS) server group has been busy updating the College’s server environment, and creating significant energy reductions was one of its primary goals. The server group identified a technology that would allow ITS to keep up with growth in services provided by the server environment while drastically reducing the servers’ electricity consumption.

Servers consume energy in two ways. First, they require power to operate, with the average server consuming between 150 and 350 watts per hour. Servers also create considerable heat as electricity is moves through the circuitry, so when operating in a secure and thereby confined space, they require significant cooling, which also consumes energy.

Obsolete servers and storage devices pile on the floor as a result of ITS' consolidation efforts.

Obsolete servers and storage devices pile up on the floor as a result of ITS’ consolidation efforts.

Before this project, the College’s 19 server and storage devices and related air conditioning equipment consumed approximately 140,000 KWh per year—enough energy to power 45 Maine households. Through implementation of a server platform called Simplivity, ITS reduced the footprint to three production servers and cut electrical consumption to less than 15,000 KWh/year.

The efficiencies are created in a couple of ways. First, data is stored in a deduplicated and compressed format, reducing the need for disk space. Second, compute capacity is improved through condensing CPU and memory on each server. The technologies combine to create a compact and powerful platform to host more than 150 unique servers in the environment.

A custom incentive sought from Efficiency Maine was approved, returning $40,000 to the College for the project, according to Colby Sustainability Coordinator Kevin Bright, who coordinated with ITS on the effort. This covered approximately 20 percent of the project cost. For years to come, the College will continue to see dividends through decreased energy consumption.

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