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How to Maximize Your Data Center Design

In today’s data center, minimizing annual energy usage while supporting reliability is increasingly important.

Many IT facilities face the challenge of maintaining a high-availability data center while simultaneously implementing virtualization, deploying blade servers, and planning for future growth. In addition to enhancing performance, IT managers must focus on reducing operating costs.

The solution for many is to deploy a “high-density” data center, where racks hold servers that deliver well over 10 kW of power. This strategy can save a substantial amount of money for both capital costs and operating costs.

Consider these benefits of a high-density data center design:

Data Center Density Creates Efficiency

Data centers are moving toward high-density computing environments as newer, more dense servers are deployed. The greatest benefit for moving to higher densities is saving facility space while reducing energy costs through increased efficiency. However, the magnitude of the savings available through increasing density is often underestimated.

For example, industry estimates the cost of building a data center (the building shell and raised floor) at $200-$400 per square foot. By building a data center with 2,500 square feet of raised floor space operating at 20kW per rack versus a data center with 10,000 square feet of raised floor space at 5 kW per rack, the capital savings could reach $1 – $3 million.

Operational savings also are impressive – about 35 percent of the cost of cooling the data center is eliminated by the high-density cooling infrastructure.

The days when data centers opened with huge areas of unused floor space set aside for a decade’s worth of growth are coming to an end. Instead of building out, like a city with a growing population supported by sprawling suburbs, it is more efficient to build “up” and replace the sprawl with higher density racks.

This does require a different approach to infrastructure design in both cooling and power distribution.

High-Density Cooling

A high-density data center design brings cooling closer to the source of heat through high-efficiency cooling units located near the rack to complement the base room air conditioning. These systems can reduce cooling power consumption by as much as 32 percent compared to traditional room-only data center designs.

Pumped Refrigerant Solution – Liebert DSE

Pumped refrigerant integrated solutions like Vertiv’s Liebert DSE, offer optimal thermal management and control, while reducing energy consumption. It removes heat from the data center more efficiently than air-cooled systems and offer incremental energy savings between 25 and 48 percent based on kW of cooling capacity per kW of heat load.

Originally designed to address hot spots or zones within the data center, high-density cooling systems have become the standard for future growth, meeting the needs of today’s 10, 20 and 30 kW racks while supporting densities of 60 kW or higher in the future.

Also, these cooling systems can use high-efficiency pumped R134a refrigerant that turns into a gas if it ever touches the air. This prevents an unlikely leak from ever damaging IT equipment and triggering an outage.

High-Density Power Distribution

Another way to maximize your data center design is through a high-density power distribution solution. Power distribution has evolved from single-stage to two-stage designs to increase density, reduce cabling, and to create a more effective use of data center space.

Single-stage distribution often is unable to support the number of devices in today’s data center as breaker space is expended long before system capacity is reached.

Instead, a two-stage distribution eliminates this limitation by separating deliverable capacity and physical distribution capability into subsystems. The first stage receives high-voltage power from the UPS and can be configured with a mix of circuit and branch-level distribution breakers. The second stage, or load-level units, tailors to the requirements of specific racks or rows. Growing density can be supported by adding breakers to the primary distribution unit and adding additional load-level distribution units.

Power Distribution Unit – Liebert MPX

Also, higher amperage in-rack power distribution units (PDUs), like the Liebert MPX, can be deployed to manage higher electrical requirements within the rack. These systems can provide 60amp capacity per strip, compared with 15 amp for traditional rack power strips, and also feature a modular design that makes it easy to add additional receptacles or support high-density equipment.

Together, these new advances in power and cooling technology are enabling high-density environments to achieve the same levels of availability and scalability as low-density environments while offering significant savings in design and operating costs.

Data Center Design Checklist

High density isn’t just for new data centers – existing data centers will benefit as well. High density cooling modules can supplement existing CRACs in retrofit environments. So, mixed density environments are possible as data center IT loads grow. Use this data center design checklist as a guide:

  • What are my future growth needs? You may not need to build that new data center after all. It is quicker and cheaper to increase densities in racks, instead of building a new facility.
  • Do I have many partially loaded racks? The rack is already purchased but is not being totally utilized. This is another way to reduce expenses – new racks will not need to be purchased when low-density racks are turned into high-density racks.
  • Are you currently experiencing hot spots? Traditional cooling might not be providing even air distribution. High-density cooling modules can eliminate hot spots and poor air circulation. Also, by not having to overcool to eliminate hot spots, chiller capacity is saved.
  • What are the inherent redundancies of a high-density system? When operating at higher densities, cooling failures will produce adverse events much faster than low-density environments. It’s important to choose high-density cooling with redundant pumps, fans and compressors. It is even possible to configure a dual-bus design for cooling.
  • What temperature is your PDU rated at? Not all rack power strips can handle a high-density environment. The latest technology is rated for 60 amps and can operate at temperatures up to 131 degrees F. Legacy PDUs are typically under 30 amps with operating ranges less than 110 degrees F.

Need Help Maximizing Your Data Center Design?

As your local Vertiv partner, we’re committed to helping you optimize your IT infrastructure while maximizing availability and future growth. Our engineers can help make strategic recommendations to your data center design to maximize your return on investment. Contact us today to learn more about Vertiv solutions.

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