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Webinar Recap | Key Steps to Data Center Efficiency: Introducing DEEP

Data Center Energy Efficiency Program (DEEP)


It’s been years since “sustainability” transformed from a mere buzzword to a consistent, encompassing movement across the data center industry. However, the term “sustainability” itself can become a tad vague, and often carries different definitions based on who you ask and where their data center’s located. Green initiatives in an arid climate, for instance, aren’t achieved with the same technology and tools as they would be in a dense urban area like Chicago, Illinois.

How, then, might we be able to develop a standardized framework that not only provides best practices and consistent tips that all data centers can utilize regardless of their location, but also acknowledges a given data center’s specific climate, size, and energy demands?

In November’s webinar, Liz Cruz, Director of Data Programs at Informa, introduces and outlines such a framework. The Data Center Efficiency Evolution (or DEEP) Program, developed in collaboration with a dozen of the data center industry’s greatest minds, offers a standardized criteria that’s also acutely aware of your data center’s unique layout and needs.

At the start of the webinar, Cruz, alongside Vlad Galabov, Research Director of Cloud & Data Center Practice at Omdia, first illustrated the advantages and necessary urgency of sustainability initiatives from both a financial and environmental standpoint. Afterwards, Raymond Parpart, Director of Data Center Operations & Strategy at University of Chicago, offered a case study on how UChicago’s data centers benefited from a DEEP certification—and outlined the simple process by which your data center can also become DEEP certified.


Market Perspectives on Sustainability

“I’ve seen some really big highs and really big lows in terms of data center sustainability,” Vlad Galabov declared towards the start of the webinar. “I’m here for a bit of myth-busting.”

Indeed, Galabov kicked off his presentation by highlighting various “Sustainability Truths” collated from hours of interviews with data center operators across the globe. Rather than merely identify the common misconceptions regarding sustainability, Galabov took this as an opportunity to emphasize the myriad benefits that data centers can achieve if they keep a sharp focus towards sustainability.

“Sustainability is not just a compromise,” he said. “It isn’t just an added cost. Actually, in pursuing savings, a lot of data centers are also becoming more sustainable.” In fact, according to Galabov, data centers that have aggressively pursued green initiatives have quickly discovered many competitive advantages when compared to their sustainability-averse peers, including increases in efficiency and online engagement as well as reduced costs for fuel and less time needed to negotiate with clients and vendors. Simply put, people want to work with data centers that plan to actively construct a sustainable future.

However, Galabov warned that half-measures wouldn’t be enough to achieve the desired reductions in energy usage and overall costs. Sustainability isn’t just about seeking out sources of renewable energy or achieving greater efficiency—it requires significant investments of time and effort to analyze data, develop an achievable gameplan, and successfully carry out your green initiatives.

“You also can’t do this alone,” Galabov added. “In order to become sustainable, you have to work with your industry partners.”


Implementing Sustainable Practices with DEEP

 Next, Liz Cruz discussed findings from a recent whitepaper made in collaboration with DEEP to see exactly how data center managers have fulfilled their sustainability initiatives (if at all), and how these managers’ current practices compare to the best practices encouraged by DEEP’s framework.

The whitepaper, entitled “The Quest for Sustainability in the Modern Data Center,” was authored by Liz Cruz and Steven Hill and shared findings fromin-depth interviews with a dozen data center managers from various industries such as academia, colocation, and healthcare. In the webinar, Cruz outlined the key findings from their research, which include:

  • Heat management leads in ROI and efficiency gains
  • Organizational silos inhibit sustainable practices
  • Automation adoption dominated by mature operators
  • Operators look to align with evolving best practices

For the latter findings, Cruz identified several certifications that offer guidance to data center managers who don’t have the time to become their own sustainability experts, such as the LEED certification, Energy Star certification, and, of course, DEEP. “To date, there hasn’t been something quite like [DEEP],” Cruz said. “It’s designed to provide a holistic overview on how to make your data center sustainable.”

DEEP’s sustainability framework is divided into four categories—Airflow Management, Electrical Systems, Mechanical Systems, and Processes—all of which have over 70 best practices for data center operators to adopt, such as considering liquid-based cooling for racks that consume high amounts of energy and utilizing blanking panels to improve efficiency. Furthermore, these best practices can be adopted by almost any data center—no matter how usual or unusual that data center might be.

“For DEEP, we went out to discover what ‘normal’ sustainability initiatives looked like for data centers,” Cruz said. “But DEEP works for those that aren’t normal. Ray and his data center [from University of Chicago] certainly aren’t normal. They’re better than normal. And they taught us a lot.”


Case Study: The University of Chicago

 “We’ve been working on sustainability for years now,” Raymond Parpart began his discussion of his journey with DEEP. “Greenhouse gas emissions, energy savings—whatever label you want to put on it, the point is that energy savings by any other name are still savings. The university’s been very serious about [sustainability]. But suddenly we found out that our data centers were the fourth-largest consumer of energy on campus.”

While the amount of power consumed by UChicago’s data centers is understandably substantial—there’s five data centers across three campuses that total over 14,000 sq. ft. and 3.5MW of mission critical space—this discovery wasn't surprising to Parpart.

“We had to do everything in our power to convince the leadership that we were doing the best that we could,” he said.

This led to Parpart contacting DEEP to “perform an audit” of his data center and ensure that UChicago’s best practices were indeed among the best. DEEP’s process wasn’t just “check off the boxes and here we go,” Parpart emphasized. It involved “phone calls, emails, some prep work, and intensive discussions on what we could improve.”

After a couple days of inspection, which also included a walkthrough, physical measurements, and “tons and tons of data,” the results provided him with a wealth of data and the confirmation that UChicago’s data centers were doing better than Parpart previously imagined.

Ultimately, DEEP’s certification allowed Parpart and his team to “continue to be disruptive and think outside the box” when it comes to sustainability, he said. “We’re finding ways to truly save energy.”



November’s webinar shone a spotlight on both the needed urgency to incorporate sustainable practices into your data center’s daily operations, as well as an achievable framework provided by DEEP in order to do so. If, like Raymond Parpart, you also hope to become truly disruptive and find creative solutions to further advance your green initiatives, DEEP is a potential option to pursue. You, too, just might discover a way to revolutionize your data center for the better—not only for your company, or the data center industry as a whole, but for the entire world. 


This article originally appeared on the AFCOM website. To view the article in its original context, please click here.