Unisys pushes green envelope with datacenter expansion

Now we can add Unisys to the list of companies pushing the green envelope a bit further

I've read about various types of datacenter designs and renovations over the past year and I've found it interesting to observe the diverse approaches companies take to make their facilities greener, in the broad sense of the word.

Digital Realty, for example, recently reaped LEED Gold certification for a datacenter facility housed in printing plant in Chicago, built in 1917. Earlier this year, Sun unveiled an innovatively designed datacenter boasting a "future-proof" modular design.

Now we can add Unisys to the list of companies pushing the green envelope a bit further with its approach to upgrading an existing datacenter facility in Minnesota. Not only has company found ways to cut back power usage; it's made environmental upgrades to the surrounding grounds that have little to do -- directly, anyway -- with the sustainability of the datacenter.

In the datacenter facility, Unisys employs energy-efficient servers, virtualization, and a shiny new, less power-hungry cooling system from Liebert/ Emerson Network Power. That's pretty standard technologies for an existing or upgraded datacenter. Other energy-saving equipment includes fluorescent lamps and ballasts, variable-speed fan systems, and lower-emitting emergency generators, according to the company. Add to that "a sophisticated monitoring and control system allows power usage to be continually balanced with fluctuating heating and cooling requirements."

But the part of the project that stands out to me -- again, from the perspective of someone who has seen the aforementioned technologies and practices adopted at other datacenters -- is some of the work Unisys has done outside the datacenter extension.

For example, the company removed the buckthorn, a non-native plant species that overwhelms and kills native plant life, from around the facility. The company also partnered with the city of Eagan to convert 19 acres adjacent to the facility to natural prairie containing wild grasses and flowers. There's a business benefit here, too: It "enhances security for the facility by improving views and reducing the risk of brush fire."

Moreover, Unisys will plant a dozen trees each year for the next ten years "to offset the carbon footprint of the facility."

One additional eco-friendly aspect to the project: During the construction, which started in May, Unisys recycled more than 150,000 pounds of building materials, including carpeting, ceiling tiles, conduit, and electrical wire. That certainly beats having those materials hauled off to the landfill.

It's easy to dismiss the aforementioned eco-oriented enhancements, at least in part, to an attempt to generate positive PR and/or bargaining chips to gain governmental approval to move forward with the expansion project. But even if that were entirely the case (which I doubt), I really wouldn't care: The fact remains that companies, for any number of reasons, are increasingly incorporating green practices throughout their datacenter projects that benefit both the bottom line as well the planet as a whole. It's a heartening trend, one that will certainly carry over and grow in the year to come.

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Ted Samson

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