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Lavenya Dilip

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Datacenter infrastructure: Looking beyond the hardware

IBM, Syracuse University (SU), and New York State have built a computer data center on the university’s campus that  incorporates advanced infrastructure and smarter computing technologies to make it one of the most energy-efficient data centers in the world. The data center is expected to use 50% less energy than a typical data center today making it one of the greenest computer centers in operation.

 

A key element of the design is an on-site electrical co-generation system that uses natural gas-fueled microturbine engines to generate all the electricity for the center and provide cooling for the computer servers. SU will manage and analyze the performance of the center, as well as research and develop new data center energy efficiency analysis and modeling tools. The data center operates completely off-grid.

 

In addition, a liquid cooling system has been created that will use double-effect absorption chillers to convert the exhaust heat from the microturbines into chilled water to cool the data center’s servers, with sufficient excess cooling to handle the needs of an adjacent building. Server racks  incorporate IBM’s Rear Door Heat eXchanger “cooling doors” that use chilled water to remove heat from each rack far more efficiently than conventional room-chilling methods. Sensors  monitor server temperatures and usage to tailor the amount of cooling delivered by each Rear Door Heat eXchanger–further improving efficiency.

 

The project includes the creation of a direct current (DC) power distribution system. In a typical data center, alternating current (AC) electricity is delivered by a central power plant through the local utility’s electric grid and then converted to DC to power the servers. This conversion process results in power loss. By directly generating DC power on-site, transmission and conversion losses are eliminated.

 

What makes the IBM-Syracuse University project different from many other similar ventures is the fact that special attention has been paid to greening the actual infrastructure of the data center itself, not just the computer hardware and software. Other design solutions that we recommend at Green Rack Solutions to update your data center’s basic design are:

  • Managed airflow system to avoid hot spots, to assess cooling capacity required for IT equipment and to separate cool intake air from warm server exhaust air.
  • Using energy saving cooling methods such as airside economizers and direct evaporative cooling.
  • Larger but fewer variable speed motors to power air handlers for energy saving.
  • Data center designs that eliminate need for raised floor which creates additional losses and leakages in the air handling system, thereby reducing the efficiency of the overall cooling systems.
  • Designing by density zones. High-density applications represent 10 percent to 15 percent of a total data center usage. Medium-density apps account for another 20 percent. The rest is low-density. If you mix and match densities you save money on the build-out.

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Lavenya Dilip was responsible for Marketing at Green Rack Systems.