British internet hosting company Ecological Hosting is powering its datacentre with sunshine.
All its servers and offices operate on renewable energy its West Yorkshire office uses grid-supplied wind-generated power. It had a UK hosting centre until August, 2005, when it transferred it to the US. This infrastructure is now based in a solar-powered California datacentre.
There is a 120-solar panel array capable of generating up to 60 kilowatt-hours of electricity each day. This provides all power for the datacentre offices, air conditioners and computer equipment, both network and servers.
The datacentre has multiple very high-speed internet links, plus full UPS battery and natural gas generator backup. DC power from the solar panel feed is stored in battery banks. A large APC UPS system also provides power backup and conditions the power supply, protecting equipment from voltage fluctuations and spikes.
In an emergency, power is also available from a natural gas standby generator (tested weekly) and regular grid supply, but in practice these options have never been used.
IT infrastructure in the datacentre is divided into server and network segments — there is a fully redundant Cisco-powered network with multi-homed connectivity to the internet backbone, no single point of failure, multiple redundant Cisco 7200 series routers, Cisco PIX firewalls and Cisco switches.
The network infrastructure is also fully redundant, with automated failover and full BGP (border gateway protocol) routing across three internet service links (two wired and one very high speed wireless).
Inside the datacentre, there is VMware virtual server technology, based on multiprocessor IBM xSeries servers and multi-terabyte RAID-protected Fibre Channel storage area network (SAN) drive arrays from Network Appliance.
Ecological Hosting claims that, compared to having a larger number of individual physical servers, this design provides massive savings in datacentre power consumption, as well as noise and other environmental factors.
VMware VMotion is used to bring redundancy to the server set-up. If a physical server is struggling or fails, then VMware virtual servers hosted by the failing physical server are automatically switched to a different physical host. This is made possible by the servers being virtual and having all the server information stored away from the physical host in the SAN storage arrays.
Multiple snapshots are taken of each virtual server stored on the SAN throughout the day. This enables server restoration to an earlier time almost instantaneously if needed. These snapshots are created by the Network Appliance SAN hardware and are completely independent of the servers.
When Ecological Hosting’s datacentre began operating from California, it was the first solar-powered hosting company in the UK. In August 2007, it was joined by Solarhost, and since then Green Web Hosting has also joined the ranks of UK solar-powered hosting suppliers.