There are a lot of issues for companies looking to expand on their data centre capacity. Power supply can be limited and other aspects of the facility or location can threaten business continuity. New facilities are costly, whilst retrofits can be disruptive. Hence the increasing availability of modular designed, often off-the-shelf facilities. The modular design means that it doesn’t have to be built and run for maximum capacity, but scaled out as required, saving energy costs and emissions.
The latest of these is HP’s Flexible DC design, which it describes as offering a faster, less expensive, more flexible and safer way to scale data centre capacity. The facility is shaped like a butterfly, with a core building and four 800 kilowatt quadrants. The design uses prefabricated, pre-specified modules for easy scaling.
The modular approach means significant construction cost savings and the design also improves cooling and energy efficiency, which means operational savings as well. The company claims a typical PUE of just 1.18.
Colt, the communications and IT managed services company, has also launched its own Modular Data Centre. Delivered by Colt Data Centre Services (Colt DCS), a newly formed division, it’s a pre-fabricated solution, including all power and cooling elements, which is constructed and tested before delivery. It’s available in units of 500m2, which can be joined together to match the overall requirement.
The company claims to be able to deliver highly power-efficient, turnkey data centre halls to customers in less than four months, about the third of the time for the delivery of a conventional data centre (according to Colt).
The design target PUE is 1.21 not quite as good as the HP offering but a great deal better than most current data centres.
On a much smaller scale but in a more interesting project, last week Canadian organisation Cybera, with partners CANARIE and the GreenStar Network (GSN) Project, connected a rooftop solar-powered ‘data centre’ to Canada’s first ‘green’ powered internet network.
That paragraph needs some explaining:
• Cybera is an Alberta-based not-for-profit organisation that supports innovation. Cybera operates CyberaNet, a high-speed high-bandwidth advanced network in Alberta.
• CANARIE Inc. is Canada’s Advanced Research and Innovation Network, running hundreds of times faster than the internet, facilitating leading-edge research across Canada.
• The GreenStar Network (GSN) Project is aimed at creating a Canadian consortium of industry, universities and government agencies with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from ICT services. The project will combine renewable energy with carbon accounting to provide ICT infrastructure on which certifiably low-carbon services can be delivered.
Anyway, over the next few months the GSN Project will connect five different nodes across Canada, each powered by renewable energy sources as they store and transfer research data for pilot user groups. The Calgary node, managed by Cybera, will draw more than 230 watts of power from eight solar panels installed on roof space donated by Calgary Technologies Inc. If one of the nodes uses up its power supply before it’s able able to recharge, the data will be seamlessly transferred along the network to another operational node.
This isn’t mainstream data centre innovation, but it’s interesting because of its focus on the relationship between networks and data centres to provide green ICT services. Data centres and network usage are becoming increasingly important as ICT is delivered as a service (think cloud, Software as a Service, etc.), so there’s a need to address the carbon emissions in innovative ways. Apart from anything else, emissions will cost money as legislation spreads (and also impact reputations, if the UK’s CRC cap-and-trade scheme is followed elsewhere). That’s what this is trying to address.