Evaluating the green data center.

This morning I was reading about evaluating data centers. What struck me about this article was how out of date some of the criteria people are applying is.

The first point is that a data center MUST have raised flooring and the prospective customer must know how deep it is. If you come to one of my data center facilities, you’ll be disappointed to see that there’s no raised flooring at all. All power and data cabling are carried overhead via cable racks and dropped to the cabinets. From an aesthetic standpoint, the cable racks are not as “neat” as the raised floor, since they expose the cabling. A large installation can also look a bit like a jungle gym (I’ve seen facilities with 6 or more levels of cable rack carrying different types of service). On the other hand, eliminating the raised floor reduces the unproductive load on the floor underneath, eliminates the need for underfloor fire detection and suppression, and makes cabling far easier (think about pulling dozens of tiles).

A simple walk through can certainly reveal a lot more about cooling problems than giving the 3rd degree about the exact equipment, cooling technique, and capacity. The hot and cold spots from lousy airflow control are all too easy to spot just by walking through them. It doesn’t matter if the cooling is legacy HVAC or modern green free air cooling, it matters that it’s done right and produces the expected results.

Total power and cooling capacity are irrelevant as long as the data center provider isn’t exceeding them. If there’s a known need for expansion capacity, then the discussion has to be had with the data center provider about reserving adequate capacity for expansion. Available power and cooling capacity can change radically from one day to the next in busy facilities. The important thing is that the provider knows exactly where they are on capacity. A provider who doesn’t have a handle on their cooling capacity is likely to blow right by it with the predictable catastrophe.

Insistance on the facility’s generators being internal to the building is questionable. While this increases security, it also places flammable fuels inside the building, not the best place. In my experience, most large facilities and most conversion facilities will have their generators in an outside secured area. Expectations of seeing a UPS in every cabinet or even massive whole facility UPS cabinets may be disappointed by modern green DC power plants.

These are just a few of my takes on the discussion. It’s important to remember that data center design is taking radical leaps now with the implementation of energy saving green techniques. If you go in expecting to see yesterday’s equipment in the data center, you’ll get yesterday’s data center.

Vern, SwiftWater Telecom

server co-location services


2 responses to “Evaluating the green data center.

  1. “Total power and cooling capacity are irrelevant as long as the data center provider isn’t exceeding them… A provider who doesn’t have a handle on their cooling capacity is likely to blow right by it with the predictable catastrophe.”

    So power and cooling capacity isn’t relevant, until it is? I guess the adage is true “you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone”.

    The notion that you shouldn’t bother asking your provider what their stated capacities and current day to day usage levels are is pretty silly. All of your arguments boil down to one theme: “just completely trust your provider”. These days, with outages that make the news happening almost weekly, trust is a hard thing to come by and smart shoppers need to ask EVERY question they can think of to vet a potential host.

    • Ok, so I tell you I have 1MW power and 20 tons of cooling and 70% usage. What does that tell you? It tells you that right this moment, I’m not over capacity. It doesn’t tell you that I won’t do something boneheaded and oversell it completely tomorrow. Instead, if I tell you that it takes us X time to install extra cooling, we grow cooling usage at Y rate, so when we reach, say, 75% usage we automatically trigger a build of additional capacity, that’s something useful. It shows you that we monitor what’s going on and there’s a reasonable engineering plan to insure we don’t overrun capacity.

      I didn’t say power and cooling wasn’t relevant, what I said was that taking a snapshot of a few numbers out of context doesn’t get you the answer to the question you really meant to ask.


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