Yahoo's New Efficient Data Center Modeled After Chicken Coops

yahoo data center chicken coop photo

Photo via CNET, Credit: Yahoo

The big competitive race for data centers these days isn't how many servers they can hold, but how efficiently they can hold them. It leads to some pretty cool (literally) architectural ideas, from keeping servers in shipping containers to storing them in cathedrals. But Yahoo has gone a different route. Taking a cue from the efficient cooling of chicken coops, the company has modeled their latest data center after just such a structure. Opening up in Lockport, N.Y., Yahoo's new data center can hold 50,000 servers, yet uses 40% less energy than typical data centers. It also has a power usage effectiveness (PUE) rating of 1.08. That's a big deal -- the industry average is just shy of 2, and even the leaders in the industry, Google and Microsoft, are hitting around the same number. The best a data center can achieve is a PUE of 1.

The coop design makes it easier to circulate outdoor air inside, using what's called "free cooling." Any winds that bring a chilly breeze will easily make its way into the building, in the same way farmers use the design to keep a steady circulation of fresh air going for a building housing thousands of chickens. According to GreenBiz, servers also sit on concrete floors rather than on raised platforms, and the building uses evaporative cooling rather than chillers, which means the building uses about 95% less water, or enough to supply 200,000 homes. Even the location was chosen carefully, setting up near Niagra Falls to take advantage of the cooler air and hydropower as an energy source.

TopNews reports that David Dibble, Yahoo's Executive VP of Service Engineering and Operations, said: "With the Yahoo Chicken Coop design, we are spending less than one cent for cooling for every dollar spent on electricity. Significantly reducing our electricity usage is not only good for the environment, but also good for our bottom line, giving Yahoo a competitive advantage."

Spending less than 1% of electricity costs on cooling is huge -- cooling is typically the biggest expense in running a data center. It goes to show how smart and functional their design really is.

Because the design seems to work so well, Yahoo is of course seeking a patent for its Chicken Coop design.

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