Data Centers Maximize Uptime
By Rachel Duran
Consistent increases in capital expenditures are one of the leading challenges companies face as they work to stay on top of cooling and power requirements in regard to data center needs and cloud computing activities. Today, data center footprints are shrinking and power consumption is tripling.
“Most of our clients find they can’t keep up with the capital expenditures needed to continue updating power and cooling,” says Mike Steffan, CEO, CoSentry, a cloud computing and technical support company. The company has established a new $31.6 million data center in Lenexa, Kan. “Even five years ago the average cabinet on our data center floor was running at 1,500 watts and now we are approaching 4,000 or 5,000 watts on the average. We have cabinets running at 20,000 watts at our data center in Omaha [Neb]. The Lenexa facility will also have capacity equal to that for the cabinets.”
Cloud computing initiatives continue to launch as most Fortune 1000 companies have moved some or all of their services to the cloud, although not everything fits on the cloud, Steffan says.
“The recognition of true redundancy inside the cloud is becoming more prevalent and relevant to the end user client as well as the providers,” adds Doug West, vice president and general manager, CoSentry.
“Computing needs are growing tremendously and there is a high demand for new and updated facilities,” says Terry Preuninger, director of economic development, Oncor, an electric distribution and transmission company. Once data center companies identify the infrastructure capabilities they require, such as ample power and reliability of that power, “then you see them begin to congregate in those areas, such as north Dallas and north Texas.”
Preuninger’s service territory in north Texas is home to a number of data centers, with a number of projects under construction. Last year, Cisco Systems began data center operations from Allen, located in the north Dallas metro. The company is investing $1 billion in the project. Allen is home to several corporate data center operations.
The state of Georgia is also attractive to data center executives. The state is home to more than 50 data centers, as well as numerous headquarters locations. In fact, Georgia ranks 12th in the country for the highest concentration of Fortune 500 headquartered companies.
Pedro Cherry, vice president for community and economic development for Georgia Power, says assets attractive to headquarters operations are also attractive to data centers, such as trained talent and moderate costs of conducting business. Cherry notes Georgia is home to a reliable power infrastructure with competitive electric rates, a diversity of bandwidth, and low risks of business disruption caused by natural disasters.
“Georgia is strong in the emerging tech convergence among information, finance and technology, and is becoming a national leader in mobility, as well as niche technologies such as payment processing, health IT, and cyber security,” Cherry writes in an email correspondence. Metro Atlanta ranks among the top five U.S. markets for total bandwidth and fiber access with two of the nation’s largest fiber routes crossing the region.
The Future Is In The Cloud
Companies in a variety of industry sectors continue to make the decision to move data center functions out of house and to data center locations. Some are evaluating whether they need to add more space to their existing operations to support the functions.
“The cloud is changing the infrastructure of the industry,” says Bob Jensen, CEO, Wyoming Business Council. “While there are still companies interested in large footprints and building mega data centers, there are a large number of companies looking at smaller data centers to take advantage of cloud infrastructure.”
Among data center operations in Wyoming are facilities for Verizon Wireless, EchoStar and most recently Microsoft. Wyoming is home to the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s (NCAR) newest supercomputing location, which will conduct modeling in atmospheric and geoscience research. From Cheyenne, NCAR will partner with the University of Wyoming, where university researchers will have access to 20 percent of the capacity of the supercomputer to run computational exercises. The opportunity is important in Wyoming, a state with a large natural resource base. “We are interested in NCARs research in the area of geosciences and how we can utilize that capacity to better model geographic formations, and places to sequester carbon dioxide,” Jensen says.
The Wyoming Business Council is also working with data centers to explore alternative ways to power their operations to “take advantage of a wider variety of fuel sources for the electricity it takes to run a data center,” Jensen says.
Strategies for off-grid energy supply are being explored for small to medium-sized data center operations. “We have ways to include renewables [such as wind] in a hybrid fashion into systems that are essentially on a data center site,” Jensen says. “They would generate their own electricity from a number of different sources and use the grid as backup.”
For those corporations planning for the short, medium and long-term IT requirements and the real estate footprint needed to support data functions, the answer doesn’t necessarily equate to building new space. It can mean reconfiguring existing facilities.
A financial services firm with two facilities in different locations, conducting a combination of production and nonproduction work, was underway with a 15-year strategic plan and believed it was going to run out of IT space. The company worked with an IT consultant who determined the company would need thousands of square feet of additional raised floor space to support future IT needs. When AthenianRazak was asked to take another look at the scenario, the firm determined the company wouldn’t need to add raised floor space because its challenges centered on power needs and not square footage. The company was using 25 to 40 watts of energy per square foot, which is quite low. Alan Razak, principal, AthenianRazak, says the company’s power densities would most likely increase because at some point the company would need to rewrite legacy software applications and buy new hardware. AthenianRazak is a data center consultant, and creator and manager of real property.
Razak says the analysis found the company should remain in its existing environs and should instruct its utility to add more standby power. Razak says firms need to be flexible when it comes to corporate planning for real estate, as the IT world’s needs change every six months. “It is difficult to plan long term and understand what the space, power and capital requirements will be,” Razak says. “Look for opportunities to have capacity in reserve to avoid spending large amounts of capital upfront.”
Razak says a mistake both end users and companies in the hosting business make in regard to data centers is comparing new opportunities to existing facilities. They reason they will need the same footprint and power densities. Due diligence will go a long way in determining what data center requirements most likely will be.
Selecting The Best Data Center Option
When researching data center opportunities, companies want to know how hardened or resilient a data center is; will it withstand the natural elements that can occur in a marketplace? They also want access to dual or multiple sources for power and broadband connectivity so that when one service goes down, another will pick up and they won’t notice the switch. “Because we have so many clients we buy and aggregate all of our bandwidth requirements together; we have three carriers providing service to our clients so they never lose connection,” Steffan says.
In making the decision to site its newest data center in Lenexa, CoSentry will be able to offer clients a site served by three power substations. The facility also includes 20-foot ceiling heights and features tilt-up concrete walls.
Moving to Danville, Va., the community offers companies their own broadband system, called nDanville. “Our data speed is quicker from Danville to northern Virginia than it is between Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia,” says Jeremy Stratton, director, Danville Office of Economic Development. “And our connectivity costs are 30 percent lower than in northern Virginia.” Companies will find sites located throughout the community feature dual power, dual broadband and ample process water.
Danville is home to Novellus Systems, which operates the first Cray XMT2 supercomputer located outside of a university or federal installation. The company will work with other companies that want to utilize the computing capacity, which ranks among the top 25 fastest computers.
Also in Danville, EcomNets Inc. is in the process of finishing a level two data center, retrofitting a 10,000-square-foot facility.
Moving to the southwest United States, in Waco, Texas, the Texas Star Data Center is served by two power grids, two UPSs, and two generators, as well as dual cooling systems. “By moving into a data center your company will receive better overall data center performance for less money than trying to do it yourself,” says Robert Felps, vice president/general manager of central Texas for Clearview, which manages Texas Star. “It is a huge capital expense to get started and maintained at this level.”
The Waco data center is a fortified nuclear fallout shelter with a hardened bunker built in 1956. “The interesting thing about the Texas Star Data Center is that it was intended to be a disaster recovery data center and now more than 40 percent of the floor space is taken up by clients that have located their primary data centers here,” Felps says. In addition to data center functions, Clearview will soon offer a business continuity office to further support clients’ needs.
The Clearview project and data center projects across the nation are well positioned to meet your requirements. They take the burden off having to consistently invest capital to maintain your place in the clouds.
For complete details on the organizations featured in this article, visit:
Danville (Va.) Office of Economic Development, www.discoverdanville.com
Georgia Power, www.georgiapower.com
Texas Star Data Center, www.clearviewfocus.com
Wyoming Business Council, www.wyomingbusiness.org