Iron Mountain, the nearly 70-year-old “information management” company that grew out of a big early 20thcentury underground mushroom growing operation, has joined a White House program created to push companies and government agencies to improve their data center energy efficiency.
President Barack Obama’s administration rolled out the Better Buildings Initiative in parallel with its clean energy investment program in 2011. The Better Buildings Challenge, one part of the initiative, called on companies and agencies to make specific energy efficiency improvement commitments for their facilities in return for access to some technical assistance from the government, shared best practices, and, of course, good publicity.
So far, Boston-based Iron Mountain is one of 11 private-sector data center operators to have accepted the challenge, pledging to reduce energy intensity of eight of its data centers by 20 percent in 10 years. The others are eBay, Facebook, Intel, Intuit, Home Depot, Staples, and Schneider Electric, as well as data center providers Digital Realty Trust, CoreSite Realty, and Sabey Data Centers.
Energy intensity is a metric that’s different from PUE, or Power Usage Effectiveness, the most popular data center efficiency metric. PUE is designed to measure how efficiently supporting data center infrastructure as a whole delivers energy to IT equipment. Energy intensity allows the operator to measure efficiency of each component subsystem, such as power equipment, cooling equipment, IT equipment, or, if necessary, the entire data center. It focuses on how much useful work a system achieves using energy it receives.
At the Data Center World Global conference in Las Vegas next month, Iron Mountain VP of data centers Chris Bair, Intel data center architect John Musilli, and Department of Energy staff scientist and engineer Dale Sartor will talk about the role of the government in data center energy efficiency and explain the ins and outs of the Better Buildings Challenge.
The 20 percent reduction in energy intensity across the eight Iron Mountain data centers amounts to 8.75MW total. In other words, the company has pledged to use 8.75MW less power to do the same amount of work it does now.
Iron Mountain hasn’t provided much detail about how exactly it is planning to achieve the improvements. In an email, a spokesperson said the company would use “geothermal cooling and infrastructure innovations, including air and water-side economization,” as well as better airflow containment.
The data centers in question are in Boston; Kansas City, Missouri; and just outside of Pittsburgh. The latter is Iron Mountain’s famous data center inside a limestone cave in Boyers, Pennsylvania.
Caves play a big role in the company’s history. Iron Mountain founder Herman Knaust was a mushroom grower and seller in early 20th century and bought a cave in New York State in the 1930s to expand his growing facilities, giving it the name Iron Mountain. The mushroom business eventually dried up, and during the Cold War Knaust pivoted to use company facilities as secure underground storage for corporate documents to protect them from destruction by the Bomb.
Today, Iron Mountain’s core business is still providing secure storage facilities for both companies and government agencies, except a lot of the information it stores now comes in digital form.