IBM will inch up heat in new data centre

IBM Corp. has opened a football field-size data centre in North Carolina it says will rely heavily on outside air for cooling as it turns up the heat inside, gradually.

This new facility, about 60,000 square-feet (5,574 sq. meters) in the Research Triangle Park N.C., incorporates IBM’s latest approaches to energy. It includes thousands of sensors that dynamically monitor temperature, humidity, air flow and circuits all of which is integrated into the building’s management and IT systems. The data center will be supporting cloud platforms.

“What we tried to do here is have a data centre that is more instrumented, interconnected and intelligent than anything we have done before,” said Joe Dzaluk, IBM’s vice-president of infrastructure and resource management at the Global Technology Services division. The data centre will use about 6 MWs of power initially, but is designed to be expanded to 100,000 square feet and 15 MWs.

Among the things the company is doing to reduce energy usage is to adopt latest environmental recommendations by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, which allow the temperature for data centre equipment from the old recommendation of 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25C) to 80.6 , reflecting improvements in equipment design.

The maximum temperature involves certain moisture ranges as well. IBM will start at 75 degrees and inch its way up over time, in part because the data centre will have some non-IBM equipment running in it.

The data centre will also use outside air to cool radiators and chill water, and the company believes it will be able to take advantage of outside temperatures for cooling more for more than half the year.

Dzaluk said that once measurements are taken he expects the data centre will be among the most efficient in the world, with a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) ratio of about 1.2 to 1.3. Facebook Inc. recently announced a new data centre in Prineville, Ore ., that it says it expects a PUE ratio of 1.15.

PUE is the ratio of total facility power, including everything from the cooling systems, UPS, and lighting, to IT equipment power, the load associated with all IT equipment, and the servers and storage.

The PUE rating isn’t perfect. David Cappuccio, chief of research, infrastructure at Gartner, said PUE rating doesn’t tell you how efficiently someone is running their equipment.

Nonetheless, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to be moved up on a method for data centre managers to compare their efficiency against industry standards. The EPA has been gathering data from more than 100 companies to develop a benchmarking standard, along the lines of its Energy Star, that may use the PUE or a close relative to assess the power efficiency of a data centre. It may be released in April.

Cappuccio said he expects that the EPA standard will increase pressure on data centre managers who will likely be asked to explain how they compare with that federal recommendation. That may drive more data centre construction business, he said.0

The big vendors, such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard and most recently Dell with its acquisition of Perot System last fall , have been adding capability to meet the data centre needs of their clients.

Cappuccio said data centre consulting is a line of services that could help could help these companies across their other lines. “If I contracted IBM to help me build a data centre and they did a good job, the likelihood that I would use IBM services for something else is pretty high,” he said.