From The Expert Feature Article
February 04, 2013

Innovative Green Technologies Like Flywheels Provide Efficiencies, Cost Savings for MSPs, Their Customers

For Oregon managed service provider (MSP) EasyStreet Online Services, keeping up with and implementing the latest green technologies is part of its business plan. The company, which provides Infrastructure-as-a-Service to SMEs, offers a wide range of cloud services through its energy efficient data centers.

Keeping those centers up and running in the most reliable, efficient, cost effective and clean and green way possible is essential to EasyStreet.

EasyStreet has long practiced sustainable IT as part of its corporate culture and mission statement. The company began brainstorming ideas in 2007, when a group of engineers, energy-efficiency consultants and experts came together in Beaverton to come up with a data center design that balanced energy efficiency, affordability and performance.

The goal of the session was to start with an empty space and incorporate as many green data center technologies as possible.

According to Jon Crowhurst, director of technical services at EasyStreet, the initiative qualified the MSP for funding from the Oregon Department of Energy's Small Scale Energy Loan Program. The company offsets all the resources it consumes and leaves a zero carbon footprint throughout its data center and office operations.

All of the MSP's electricity usage is offset by PGE Clean Wind, while 100 percent of its city water usage is offset by Bonneville Environmental Foundation Water Restoration Certificates.

Additionally, 100 percent of EasyStreet's natural gas use is offset by NW Natural Smart Energy.

One of the newest green technologies the MSP is employing is the use of flywheel systems to power the uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) in its data centers. The systems are developed by California-based VYCON, and operate by storing and delivering a reliable source of DC power using kinetic energy. The systems are set up to interface with the DC bus of the UPS similarly to a bank of batteries, and receive their charging current from the UPS while providing DC current to the UPS inverter during discharge.

"The benefits of using flywheels over valve regulated lead-acid (VRLA) batteries include the flywheel’s ability to charge and discharge at high rates for countless cycles without degradation throughout its 20-year life – unlike traditional batteries that degrade every time they are cycled," said Frank DeLattre, president of VYCON. "Batteries are unpredictable, maintenance intensive, temperature sensitive and contain hazardous materials."

DeLattre added that another advantage of the flywheels is the amount of space saved, since a battery plant is around three times the size of a comparable-sized flywheel. Batteries also require expensive cooling to operate according to specification, and will degrade and put power protection infrastructure at risk if this cooling is not provided properly.

Flywheels do not require any sort of cooling to operate properly.

"The flywheels are not only more efficient that battery-based systems, they are also more reliable," added EasyStreet's Crowhurst. "We have had no issues with the VYCON system since it’s been in use. When fully loaded, EasyStreet's efficient data center is expected to save approximately 1,532,634 kilowatt hours per year."

Crowhurst said the MSP is also employing an Indirect Evaporative Cooling (IEC (News - Alert)) system, which uses water-cooled air instead of refrigerated air to save energy while also improving indoor air quality and significantly reducing particulate matter, CO2 and formaldehyde.

While refrigerated air is available as a backup for hot and humid days, the MSP estimates the data center is cooled with ambient air for all but 180 hours per year.

Additional green technologies include a hot air containment system achieved through passive "chimney" equipment cabinets that are part of the cooling system. The cabinets gather hot exhaust air and route it to the roof to be processed by the cooling units.

The MSP also installed a 25,000-gallon rainwater capture system to keep its Data Center 2 cool. The company believes it will use reclaimed water for seven months of its annual operation.

As far as MSPs go, green technologies are a logical fit according to Crowhurst. "The numbers definitely pencil out — more energy saved in cooling the data center means more energy can be directed to powering customer equipment. Because of the energy efficiencies gained, green technologies should also help MSPs keep expenses down compared to traditional technologies as energy costs go up in the future."

"Data center managers are continually faced with securing the data of their organization 24x7," said DeLattre. "To do this, managers must incorporate the highest level of technologies to assure the highest nines of reliability. Driving down costs and increasing data center system uptime are motivating important initiatives such as energy efficiency, sustainability and reliability. VYCON’s flywheel technology eliminates the need for costly cooling and maintenance and takes up a fraction of the space compared to banks of backup batteries."

He added that system uptime and availability are prime concerns for both MSPs and cloud computing vendors. The green flywheel technology offers this reliability as well as cost savings. Using a flywheel versus a five-minute VRLA battery bank can offer $100,000 to $200,000 in cost savings per flywheel deployed.

Additionally, the elimination of battery replacement and cooling costs can be passed down to SME customers, saving them money as well.

For EasyStreet, that savings may be passed along through its popular managed services, including customized private clouds. The company also specializes in disaster recovery services, enterprise monitoring, managed colocation and private servers, multi-tenant clouds and data protection, backup and recovery services.

Edited by Braden Becker