Data centers get religion

Would you house a data center in a diamond mine or an old chapel? These organizations did, with great success.

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The church had been closed for more than 50 years and during that time had served as a private estate and a school for nuns, and was then donated to the town, he explains.

There were dual challenges. First, the designers had to figure out how to control humidity, temperature and even dust. Second, the architects had to "integrate the new technology into an old building," he says.

As at BC, they put a glass cage inside the building for the operations console. While there are some big hurdles in converting older buildings to IT centers, chapels and churches offer the advantage of big open spaces and high ceilings, which actually offer an air-flow advantage over even some of the newer buildings.

MareNostrum uses air flow, front to back, as the primary means of cooling, with the air entering at 15 degrees Celsius and exiting at 32 degrees to 35 degrees Celsius. That air then enters a secondary cycle, flowing into heat exchangers that use water to suck out the accumulated heat. That warmer water is then cycled out of the system and is allowed to cool for reuse.

From sanctuary to war room

For its part, Advanced Data Centers (ADC) is using part of the old McClellan Air Force Base outside Sacramento. ADC has bought an on-base facility and is working with the local utility to make sure it has plentiful -- and economic -- power. ADC is a San Francisco-based start-up that hopes to build a business around providing energy-efficient data centers for Fortune 1,000 companies, including banks, insurance providers and retailers.

The 3,700-acre base was closed as a military site six years ago but remains an industrial and business park.

When it goes online in a bit more than a year, it will be just shy of a quarter of a million square feet, says ADC President Michael Cohen.

There are other amenities that go part and parcel with the site, including police and fire presences nearby in case of emergencies, two local power substations and room for expansion on the rest of the 3,700-acre base.

In addition, Sacramento is "not on a flood plain and is basically seismically inactive" -- important considerations in California, says Cohen.

ADC is working with Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) on the power supply aspect. SMUD is "a forward-thinking utility with a mix of renewable energy in their portfolio," Cohen says.

To make the best use of the power available, ADC is building what Cohen calls state-of-the-art HVAC systems that can cool in excess of 225 watts of power. Thus, ADC can offer air cooling as well as water-cooled cabinets to companies that need them. He thinks water cooling will be a big seller.

As microprocessors need more and more power, eventually he will need liquid cooling, Cohen believes. "We're building hot aisles and cold aisles to increase the efficiency and lower the TCO for the customer," he says.

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