Is Your Colo Due For An Update?

Points to Consider for a Colocation Data Center Refresh

A lot has changed in the last decade. Most notably, the demand being put on data centers. Cloud, big data processing and web applications are driving new user interests and more demand on data centers than ever before.

Colo spaces and large-scale data centers that were built in the last 7 – 8 years can’t achieve current ASHRAE standards and competitive PUEs often times due to legacy low temp chilled water system designs and lack of air side or water side economizers. They were designed at a time when prevailing IT loads were lower on a watts/SF basis and that colder was better.

Legacy data centers were built during a time when colder temperatures were the norm – but that’s not the case anymore. With advancements in technology, cooling research, and cooling guidelines, IT equipment can operate in warmer temperature, saving time and money.

As suites within these colo sites are up for renewal, data center owners are faced with the challenge of how to “refresh” their site to remain competitive in the marketplace with the goal of retaining current clients or attracting new ones.

The average data center, according to a 2013 Technavio report, only lasts for 7-10 years however, and with many facilities reaching the end of their lifetime period, there is a need for restructuring and reconstruction of these soon-to-be obsolete facilities.

Fujitsu, in a 2016 whitepaper “The future of the data center in the age of Hybrid IT,” noted most data centers don’t fit in an age of cloud and Hybrid IT. The report noted they are costly and not flexible enough to meet new business demands.

“As well as the radical changes coming from the cloud, there is the continued impact of Moore’s Law; stating that computer processing power doubles every 18-24 months,” Fujitsu said. “If a business were to sweat its IT assets over a lifespan of three years without a change in the workload then it would only need a quarter of the data center it started with at the beginning of that period. Sweat those assets over five years and Moore’s Law bites even deeper meaning the business would only need an eighth of that data center.”

Cisco, in a February 2018 whitepaper, said hyperscale data centers are transforming the landscape at an increasing rate. They represent a large portion of overall data, traffic, and processing power in data centers. Additionally, Cisco estimated traffic within hyperscale data centers will quintuple by 2020.

Hyperscale data centers, according to Cisco, account for 34% of total traffic within all data centers and will increase to 53% by 2020. Hyperscale data centers will also represent 57% of all data stored in data centers and 68% of total data center processing power.

Additionally, Cisco said hyperscale data centers will grow from 259 in number at the end of 2015 to 485 by 2020. That represents 47 percent of all installed data center servers by 2020.

According to Gartner, up to 74% of IT expenses in aging data centers are dedicated to operations and maintenance whereas only 26% are dedicated to business innovation.

Conversely, new construction hasn’t slowed. Nearly 400 MW is under construction across North America, EMEA and APAC, with North America accounting for over 60 percent, according to real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle. The markets with the largest under-construction pipelines include, Dallas and Northern Virginia driving future and current demand, it said in its year-end US Data Center Outlook.

What have been some of the major changes for colocation sites in the last 10 – 15 years? For starters, in the early 2000s, ASHRAE Standard 90.4 relative to data centers didn’t exist.  Additionally, P.U.E. (Power Usage Effectiveness) wasn’t measured and efficiency wasn’t a topic of conversation.

However, with today’s higher densities requiring more power and cooling, efficiency is a hot topic of conversation and data center owners are left to figure out what needs to be done. These are some strategies to consider when modernizing a colo site:

LEARN THE NEW ENERGY CODES

To remain competitive, colo owners need to be familiar with the latest energy code requirements in their states.  For example, California, Oregon and Washington state each have these types of codes and becoming familiar with them and designing cooling solutions for their upgraded facilities will be an added service you can provide to owners.

Working with a manufacturer that can provide tailored chiller solutions for specific regions is a value-add that will allow colo owners of older facilities to modernize their facility, adhere to current codes and remain competitive in the marketplace.

EVALUATE WATER TEMPERATURES

Elevated chilled water temperatures increase overall P.U.E. making the Colo much more efficient and competitive by today’s standards.  New sites can build to these specifications, but all is not lost on legacy data centers looking to upgrade their facility.

With an increased focus on PUE and efficiency savings, making a change to use elevated chilled water temperatures is a way to remain competitive in the colo space.

This should be encouraging especially to areas that were not traditionally considered the connectivity hubs of the early 2000s, such as northern Virginia, the New York metropolitan area and Silicon Valley.  Colocation sites are popping up across the country in places like the Southeast, the Pacific Northwest and even the Southwest since data centers are now able to operate more efficiently using elevated chilled water temperatures.

MAXIMIZE BENEFITS OF FREE COOLING

Currently, ASHRAE TC 9.9 guidelines have shifted away from mechanical cooling, favoring free cooling.

If data center operators run temperature levels a little bit higher than usual, they will not only get energy savings from using less mechanical-cooling capacity but can use free cooling in more places and for longer periods of time.

In addition to elevated chilled water temperatures, chillers utilizing free cooling technology are another way in which colocation and legacy data center owners can increase their efficiencies.

The times of free cooling only being applicable to regions with extreme warm and cool temperatures are over and data center owners as far south as Texas are realizing the efficiency benefits of adding free cooling chillers to their facility.

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