Researchers Flip the Switch to Test Energy Saving in Data Centers Using DC Power Directly

August 26, 2010

The following article was published today by the University of California, San Diego. William Tschudi and other researchers from the Environmental Energy Technologies Division of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are participating in this energy-efficient data center demonstration project.

San Diego—A consortium of researchers from the public and private sectors have embarked on a real-world experiment to gauge whether large computing facilities can operate on less power if they cut alternating current (AC) out of the equation.

At the University of California, San Diego today, engineers switched a set of servers in a campus data center to operate continuously on 380-volt direct current (DC) – as part of a project that allows researchers to track in great detail the energy savings that servers and data centers can hope to achieve through a variety of architectural and procedural efficiencies, including the use of DC power.

The experiment at UC San Diego is part of Project GreenLight, a National Science Foundation-funded initiative that has deployed a modular data center on campus with sensors and other instruments to measure the energy efficiency of information and communication technologies – and to help researchers build greener IT systems and software.

“The UC San Diego campus has made substantial investments for energy savings,” said Thomas A. DeFanti, principal investigator on Project GreenLight and a senior research scientist in the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2). “The switch to DC powering of servers holds great potential on a campus where supercomputers and other high-tech facilities represent a disproportionately large share of energy consumption.”

It is estimated that companies could save billions of dollars each year in capital costs and ongoing energy savings by using all-DC distribution in their data centers.