Case study: The National Bank of Abu Dhabi Showcase project

The National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) implemented a multi-phase project for a modular data center (MDC) solution.

By Debra Vieira, PE, LEED AP, ATD, CH2M, Portland, Ore. December 30, 2016

There are numerous issues to consider and evaluate before deciding that a Modular Data Center (MDC) is the correct choice. One company that decided on an MDC solution was the National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD). NBAD has a major initiative called "Bank-in-a-Box," which proposes that no matter where a customer accesses an NBAD branch, each one will look the same. To do this, NBAD needed to have standardized technology and processes worldwide.

In 2013, NBAD began design on a new data center in Abu Dhabi to support the bank’s local and international corporate information technology (IT) operations. Construction of the data center will provide IT capacity and elevate the data center’s reliability, both of which are critical to the Bank-in-a-Box concept.

The project, known as Barajeel, consists of an administration building and four enclosure buildings (Figure 1). Barajeel is currently under construction with an anticipated completion date in the fourth quarter of 2016 for phase one. The 2-story administration building supports operations for phases one and two of the project. IT equipment and support infrastructure will be located in the four 2-story enclosure buildings. Two enclosure buildings will be installed in phases one and two. Each of those buildings is designed with premanufactured electrical and mechanical equipment skids on the ground floor and 16 MDC units with IT equipment on the first floor.

Phase one of the project provides for 32 MDC units supplying 1 MW of critical power, cooling, and space for 160 racks at start-up with scalable growth to a maximum capacity of 1.596 MW. This scalable infrastructure approach, coupled with the multiple MDC units and premanufactured equipment skids, facilitates the bank’s desire for a modular and flexible system to respond to future IT requirements. Factory fabrication of these critical systems will facilitate high-quality construction and enable testing before shipping equipment to the site.

Administration building

The administration building was designed to support the bank’s data center operation, with the ground floor having less program space than the first floor, thereby providing covered car parking at the front of the building and covered loading docks at the rear. Support functions were included in the administration building design, such as delivery docks, shipping/receiving, secure storage, facilities staff offices, and main distribution frame (MDF) rooms, to name a few. Equipment can be moved to the first floor by using the freight elevator. Security protocols limit unauthorized access to the facility through these service support areas.

The primary functions located on the first floor of the administration building include the network operations center (NOC) and security operations center (SOC), intermediate distribution frame (IDF) room and open and closed office space, tape storage and degausser rooms, conference rooms, and break rooms. Circulation corridors provide access to both phase-one enclosure buildings through enclosed, conditioned walkways.

The roof of the administration building provides a central location for mechanical functions, such as chillers, pumps, and tanks. All rooftop equipment is screened from the ground view by a perimeter screen wall. Service access to the roof is provided by way of the service elevators and stairs. Space on the roof has also been reserved for chillers to support phase-two expansion.

Each enclosure building (Figure 2) is a 2-story building with critical-power electrical equipment, generators, and mechanical equipment located on the ground floor. MDC units housing IT equipment are located on the first floor and grouped together in PODs. The ground floor of each enclosure building is planned as concrete construction including the first-floor slab supporting the MDC units (Figure 3).

The electrical equipment skids are premanufactured units that are factory-constructed, commissioned, and then shipped to the site for installation. Skids include major electrical equipment sets for switchgear, uninterruptible-power supply (UPS) systems, and other equipment. These skids are then connected together after installation, thus minimizing the amount of field work required. UPS battery systems are designed to carry the full critical load for 15 minutes.

The primary electrical pathway is located at the center of the ground floor directly under the circulation corridor between the PODs, thereby shortening the length of the electrical feeders. Backup generators are located on the ground floor in separate rooms from the electrical equipment, which is required by the local code.

Mechanical cooling for the entire facility is provided through a chilled-water system. To cool the MDC units, water is piped from the chillers on the roof of the administration building to a dual-piping loop running along the center of each ground-floor enclosure. This loop is directly below the circulation corridor between the PODs, providing an efficient pathway to connect the MDC units. Chilled-water piping is not located over electrical equipment-this is also an NEC requirement. The piping system is designed with appropriate isolation values such that each MDC is concurrently maintainable without interrupting service to other MDCs. Direct air-side economization to cool the MDC units is not possible due to the harsh climate and sensitive IT equipment. Water-side economization will, however, be used to provide an efficient PUE.

Debra Vieira is a senior electrical engineer at CH2M. She specializes in data center and mission critical environments.