The incredible shrinking data center

Some IT managers are saying 'smaller is better' when it comes to data-center size.

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IT managers also need to pay attention to ongoing hardware density advancements, Sams adds. Using denser hardware, IT managers can shrink facility footprints and costs while keeping pace with rising workload demands. "Technology is getting a lot smaller, [which] means you can jam a lot more of it into a smaller space," he says. "A data center may find itself doing three times the computing for two times the energy."

Down under

Phil County, director of IT services at Victoria University, in Melbourne, Australia, is another manager looking to benefit from a compact data center. County is overseeing the construction of a data center complex that will be large enough to meet the university's extensive computing and network needs yet small enough to generate savings in hardware, energy usage, real estate and other areas.

"Our objective is to have the data center as small as possible," he says. "Rather than having one of those big football field-sized data centers that used to be around in the old days -- and still are in many places -- we're creating a new kind of data center."

Victoria University operates 11 campuses and other sites in the greater Melbourne area, providing education to more than 45,000 students. The university views the new data center complex, located at two separate sites (in the towns of Sunshine and Footscray), as critical to supplying educational services to all students, as well as supporting administrative functions. "We wanted to ensure that we plan for future growth, so we acquired a design and solution that could meet our data center needs for at least the next 10 years -- including increased power, cooling, space and floor load capacity," County says.

Although operating dual sites, the university is creating a single logical data center that offers redundancy and flexibility benefits. The Sunshine facility will encompass 325 square feet while the Footscray site's footprint will cover 650 square feet.

Virtualization, high-density racking and a modular design will enable the university to minimize energy demands. The data center also will use in-row cooling, targeted at the heat load source, combined with free cooling that leverages Melbourne's chilly winter climate.

Traditional cooling systems rely on electricity to drive compressors to reject heat and produce cold air, County says. The Victoria University cooling system has that capability, but also will use ambient air temperatures to reject heat and produce cooled air within certain temperature ranges.

"At 15 C this process begins to work, providing free cooling and at below 5 C the ambient air temperature does all of the work of the compressors, thus saving clients the use of the compressors to provide the cold air," County says. "The system is set up to ensure that these processes work without requiring human intervention -- so whenever the ambient temperature reaches the threshold, the system kicks in."

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