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Data Center Operator Seeking 'Green' Credentials

California's 365 Main's plans to become the first data center operator in the U.S. to meet stringent environmental guidelines.
Data center developer and operator 365 Main says green is in its future.

We're not talking about the company's finances. Rather, "green" refers to 365 Main's plans to become the first data center operator in the U.S. to meet stringent environmental guidelines in the design and building of its future facilities.

Right now, 365 Main is in the midst of constructing a new multi-tenant data center in Newark, Calif., 35 miles southeast of San Francisco, which the company is aiming to be the West Coast's first data center to attain the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED certification, from the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit organization promoting environmentally-friendly building design and construction.

The LEED certification doesn't address specifics about the IT, such as computers, used in a data center, or any building for that matter. But rather, LEED addresses the design, construction and operation of a facility, including water conservation, use of natural light, and utilization of recycled materials.

So far, it's been mostly office buildings and schools that have gone after LEED certification, said Marc Heisterkamp, a USGBC manager. In fact, of the hundreds of LEEDs certified buildings in the U.S, right now, only two are data centers.

Those two LEED-compliant data centers belong to financial services companies -- Fannie Mae and Highmark -- who received the certification for their corporate data centers. 365 Main is seeking LEED certification for a building that will house its tenants' data centers, including customers like Craigslist, operator of a popular online classified advertisement forum.

"We think about this all the time -- we want to do the responsible thing for the planet," said Eric Scheide, chief technology officer of Craigslist, which runs its current data center out of 365 Main's flagship facility in San Francisco.

That facility was built several years ago, before 365 Main's new focus on building LEED-certified data centers. However, Scheide said Craigslist will likely move or expand its data center operations into 365 Main's new green facilities in the future. "That's a big draw to us," he said.

As for the technology that Craigslist uses in its data centers, green is on the company's agenda there as well. "We have a small foot print for what we do," Scheide said. "Power is expensive, and the main cost of running an Internet business is power," he said. So the company's been focusing attention on improving its page-views per-kilowatt, which is now at about 175,000 page views per kilowatt hour for Craigslist, he said.

As for 365 Main's new 136,000-square-foot data center being built in Newark, the facility will feature "intelligent" computer room air handlers, or CRAHs, that consumer 30% less energy than conventional air-conditioning; make-up air handler units that can use outside air on days when temperatures are cool enough to flow inside the data center; energy-efficient lighting; and water-efficient landscaping.

The new 365 Main data center will be opened by the fourth quarter, said Miles Kelly, the company's VP of corporate strategy.

"This will be the first of many LEED-certified data centers," by 365 Main said Kelly. "There's company-wide commitment to LEED for all our data centers moving forward."

"If you're a CIO at a carbon-neutral company, in addition to energy-efficient servers, etc., you can also host your data center in an energy-efficient, environmentally friendly building," said Kelly.