One example of this is our ability to use more outside air for cooling instead of relying on mechanical cooling. The EMC data center in Durham, North Carolina is cooled with outdoor air for 226 days per year. By increasing the internal air temperature from the former benchmark of around 60 degrees to 75 or 80 degrees plus using the free outdoor air supplies, EMC will see energy savings of several million dollars over the 10-20 year lifespan of the facility. We have many more ways to help control costs and be creative with new technologies today.
Getting Your Data Center Started
What is the most important piece of advice for a client starting the planning for a data center?
AO: Seems very obvious, but it needs to be said - make sure you have the right people at the table. We like to work from a series of workshops, where everyone comes in with an open mind. This includes the IT, facilities and operations staff, working alongside the architect, engineer and construction cost expert. When you have a team together representing different inputs, you can look objectively at information, challenge each other’s assumptions and ask the hard questions.
What questions should be asked?
AO: One important early question concerns uptime. What is the cost to maintain 100% uptime versus the cost of an interruption in data access? Are there some tradeoffs we can make in planning and designing the redundancies to support uptime? Location is another important one. Sometimes it makes more sense to locate the data center remotely, where utility networks are more robust and energy supply more stable. Our job is to lead the client through these questions, and to provide a process to help clients understand the best design options to meet their requirements and budget.
Data centers are expensive facilities to build. How do you go about keeping the cost in check?
AO: Today’s virtualized server technology makes it possible to get a lot more data within the same footprint. This means a lower real estate cost for the owner and a more efficient use of every square foot we design and build. The higher density and server capacity though requires more cooling and power because the new virtual servers generate a lot more heat. This challenge is leading us to develop more innovative engineering designs. Instead of prescriptive approaches based on past benchmarks, we look at each new project and ask: How efficient can we make it?