Colocation Data Centers

In Colocation data centers, also known as "colos", the owner leases space, power, and cooling to multiple tenants. Each customer has varying IT hardware and needs.


  • Tenant and owner interests in saving energy costs are often misaligned. This split incentive can discourage efficiency improvements due to upfront capital costs, the return on investment timeframe, and competing priorities.
  • Colo service-level agreements (SLAs) between the owner and tenant often stipulate more stringent temperature and humidity conditions than are recommended by ASHRAE. To take full advantage of the higher recommended operating temperatures, the tenant must agree to warmer conditions, and the owner often is dependent on the tenant to practice good air management, e.g., by properly employing blanking panels.


  • Owners can incorporate efficiency-oriented practices for tenants and use energy cost containment as a selling point. Owners also can put essential cooling and power infrastructure in place so that tenants can take energy-saving actions, e.g., chimneys to channel hot air away from servers and prevent recirculation.
  • Both owners and tenants can realize operations and maintenance benefits by pre-emptively replacing older, less-efficient information technology. Tenants have more incentive to upgrade their IT equipment to increase computing densities and operate at higher efficiency; but the higher heat load imposes more demand on infrastructure, ultimately at some cost to the owner. By tweaking air management, the owner can accommodate the higher workloads in fewer racks at higher overall energy efficiency.
  • Tenants and building owners can consider developing a green lease (also called “energy-aligned” or “high-performance” leases) to align their incentives and assign responsibilities in saving energy and reducing costs for both parties. The parties can realize synergies, for example, by agreeing to abide by the latest ASHRAE temperature and humidity recommendations.

Partner Examples and Additional Resources

Digital Realty: Bedford Colocation Facility
Originally built as a commercial office in 1971, the site was converted to a data center in 2000 and acquired by Digital Realty (Digital) in 2010. While most of the existing HVAC equipment was still several years within ASHRAE-recommended life expectancy for critical infrastructure, Digital proactively decided to upgrade most of the mechanical infrastructure to mitigate risk, improve overall operating energy efficiency, and reduce costs for their customers.

Sabey Data Centers: Hot Aisle Containment and Energy Efficiency in Multi-Tenant Data Centers
At multi-tenant colocation data centers, customers have varied needs and at times non-standard IT equipment, making the implementation of hot aisle containment complicated and potentially more expensive. Sabey designed the Intergate Quincy – Building C facility to require hot aisle containment from all customers while ensuring ample flexibility in deploying the containment.

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