Rochelle, Illinois is probably not the first place one would look to find a data center replete with leading edge technology. Yet, it is here in this pastoral hamlet 80 miles west of Chicago that Northbrook, Ill.-based Allstate Insurance Co. has built a new facility that employs a mix of technologies and design elements to markedly reduce energy consumption.

Insurance Networking News toured the 65,000 square-foot facility on Friday and came away impressed with the holistic approach the company used to make the facility more efficient.

Many of the energy-saving techniques, such as giving the facility a reflective roof to cut down on cooling needs, and making use of large windows for natural lighting, seem more indicative of common sense than technological progress. Yet other decisions, such as making heavy use of virtualization to achieve process density, required more technological forethought.

To ensure such wide-ranging ideas were brought to the table when planning the center, Allstate assembled a cross disciplinary team that included representatives from the facilities, real estate, engineering and IT departments, said Brandi Landreth, the carrier’s director of data center strategy.

Data centers, by their very nature, tend to be power-hungry, but our team has worked diligently to create a fundamentally different model that will allow us to significantly reduce our projected energy consumption,” added Catherine Brune, SVP and CIO of Allstate.

Speaking in the middle of the facility’s 14,000 square-feet of raised floor space, Brune, noted that the “clean-slate” aspect of the build enabled planners to step back and assess what was really required for the center, as to discard the extraneous. The “remnants” are quite impressive: rack upon rack of energy-efficient servers running applications are lined up next to storage areas networks (capable of storing 2.5 petabytes of data) in a grid pattern.  In the next room, monolithic chillers are humming away to keep the room at a constant temperature, down stairs rooms are dedicated for a battery bank and the uninterruptible power supply, and outback sit three house-sized generators capable of producing 7.5 million watts.

That the facility is set to receive LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, is noteworthy in its own right. Moreover, the building had to make economic sense before getting the green light, Anthony Abbattista, VP of technology solutions, stressed to INN editors in attendance.

The Rochelle data center will consume six megawatts, instead of 27 megawatts for comparable facility. With electricity and cooling costs often consuming the majority of a data centers budget, the saving spawned by the efficiency measures will buoy the company’s bottom line and offer it a competitive advantage over competitors operating comparatively inefficient data centers. Abbattista also proudly noted the facility came in on budget.

The opening of Rochelle facility is part of a larger efficiency initiative at Allstate. The company is consolidating all data center operations into two facilities, the Rochelle facility and a data center in Hudson, Ohio. Abbattista said many of the lessons learned in the conception and construction of the Rochelle facility can be readily applied as retrofits are made at the Hudson facility.

This is not to say things will remain static at Rochelle. The data center is situated in a 160-acre business park and has ample room for expansion. Landreth says the company will also explore fitting the roof with photovoltaic panels as the technology improves. Nearby wind farms may also help power the facility in 2010.

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