Eaton Helps Cut Carbon Emissions and Reduce Power Bills
“When we were looking at building the data centre, Eaton was the only vendor that could supply blade technology in the way we wanted to implement it.”
Infrastructure Manager, Corporate Express
At first glance it may seem unusual for an office supplies and services company to be named “Sustainable Company of the Year.” The supply of office consumables seems somehow contradictory to the green message. Yet, in 2008 this is exactly what happened to Corporate Express. The $1.3 billion Australian organisation was singled out from all other publicly listed Australian companies to receive one of the nation's most prestigious corporate sustainability awards.
Corporate Express is a supplier of business essentials that operates throughout Australia and New Zealand. It provides business, education and government clients with everything an office requires – from consumables and canteen products through to business furniture, promotional marketing and printed materials, and IT and facilities management services. Offering sophisticated electronic purchasing options and nextday delivery through a national distribution network, Corporate Express has been one of the market's major innovators for over 15 years.
It is also a company with a strong commitment to social responsibility. Corporate Express prides itself on sourcing and supplying environmentally preferable products. Its range of coffees and teas, for example, include Fairtrade Certified options. The company has developed systems to help it measure and reduce waste while increasing its recycling. It maintains alliances with peak environmental organisations and all of its delivery vehicles subscribe to Greenfleet’s carbon abatement program.
In short, everything that Corporate Express does, it approaches with sustainability best practices in mind.
In 2008 Corporate Express relocated its head office. In doing so, it also needed to fitout a new 121 square metre data centre. Aware that data centres can be the single largest users of energy within a business, the company viewed the project as an opportunity to reduce emissions by incorporating energy efficiencies into the very design of the new centre.
Corporate Express turned to technology services company, The Frame Group, for ssistance, requesting a data centre designthat would not only reduce existing carbon emissions, but which would also ensure high levels of redundancy and availability.
Corporate Express Infrastructure Manager, Mark Jones, says, “As part of the remit for the data centre we wanted to try to build it in the most efficient way we could, to minimise the carbon footprint. One of the two major energy consumers within a data centre is the UPS [uninterruptible power supply]. Traditionally the UPS is located at the back of the data centre and is provisioned for the maximum capacity that the centre is expected to use.
“We wanted to take a different approach, one that would allow us to only use the power that we needed but which would also scale over time as the data centre and our demands grew.”
At the same time, Jones was aware that the drive for energy efficiencies could in no way impact on levels of redundancy or availability required of the data centre.
Technology services company,The Frame Group, was given the task of designing the new facility. One of its recommendations was to install a highly efficient computer room air conditioning system. Another was to deploy Eaton's new BladeUPS technology.
Scalable and modular, the Eaton BladeUPS are self-contained appliances that expand power protection from 12 to 60 kW in a single rack. Each BladeUPS acts as a building block, capable of being added to as required. Designed for energy efficiency, the BladeUPS also help to reduce data centre energy and cooling costs.
Jones notes, “When we were looking at building the data centre, Eaton was the only vendor that could supply blade technology in the way we wanted to implement it. It was a very new product. In fact Corporate Express was one of the first in Australia to deploy the technology.”
He acknowledges that selecting a new product for such a critical role was a slight risk, but says, “It was worth it because of the benefits in the power savings that we were trying to achieve.”
The final tally of UPS equipment selected by Corporate Express included four Eaton BladeUPS systems, 16 Eaton RPM (rack power modules) to simplify power distribution and 50 Eaton ePDUs that help to measure, monitor and improve the data centre's load balancing, load segmentation, efficiency and energy consumption calculations. What it all means is that Corporate Express now has a UPS in each row of the data centre, with the number of blades varying from row to row, depending on power requirements at any given time.
Since moving into the new facility a little over a year ago, Corporate Express has reduced its annual carbon emissions by 139 tons and power bills have dropped by $23,000.
Jones attributes the bulk of this improvement to the enhanced UPS and air conditioning capabilities.
In early 2009 an external audit found that Corporate Express has one of the most efficient data centres in Australia, however the company is determined not to rest on its laurels. Jones believes that still more can be done – and needs to be done – to benefit the environment.
One area already being explored is the expansion of already existing virtualisation technologies which will help optimise the allocation of computer loads across minimal servers. Servers not required overnight are being turned off, rather than allowed to consume unnecessary power. The temperature within the room is being increased slightly, reducing the demand on air conditioning. Each time an appliance is retired, it is replaced with energy efficient alternatives.
“These are all little things that can be done around the mechanics of the data centre and they all help with the energy efficiency of the room,” Jones says. “The on-demand strategy we have with the UPS for example, certainly pays off. All these actions add up to reducing power consumption.”
At the same time, the Eaton solution has provided a framework for the company to constantly monitor its PUE (power usage effectiveness) thereby gauging energy distribution within the data centre. It simplifies understanding of how the energy coming into the data centre gets apportioned and partitioned. This will assist Corporate Express to redefine the economics of running its data centre for years to come.