Planning and designing resilient, efficient data centers


Mechanical efficiency

Mechanical systems designed for data centers strive to manage machine efficiency, thermal transfer, controls, and air/water flow losses to achieve greater efficiency. Today's best practice strategies must focus on airflow management and economizer operations. These include containment and variable airflow, air/water-side economization, and adiabatic humidification to achieve the greatest energy savings and lowest PUE. Controls remain critical in managing equipment and redundancies, but also should be employed to tune temperature and humidity conditions in the cold aisle.

Deep within data centers, there are unique thermal environments that architects and engineers must address together. Temperature and humidity conditions within many of the spaces require special attention to manage energy exchange with the surrounding spaces. Wall construction types, insulation levels, and vapor barriers are several factors that must be considered. Penetrations for air, water, electrical, and telecommunications infrastructure require special attention at these boundaries. Architects and engineers must manage the thermal-energy exchanges created by internal environments as they do modeling the facility's exterior skin. Internal space temperature and humidity conditions should be accounted for by design. Containment solutions provide tight airflow management, but should be employed with proper consideration of the delta T across and through the containment structure and its adjacencies.

IT equipment manufacturers and data center operators play critical roles in energy management. This type of equipment consumes the most energy. Lowering IT energy consumption has the benefit of lowering electrical and mechanical system energy use and losses. Operators that focus on server virtualization, consolidation, and decommissioning combined with efficient power supply choices will greatly enhance data center performance. Together, this forms a complete picture of efficient data center IT operations.

Data centers will likely see 10 to 30 generations of varying IT equipment over the life of the facility. Informed by technology's history and a vision of the future, we create efficient, adaptable environments that last long into the future. Energy efficiency will be one part of the conversation. Listening to the client is the next part.

Figure 1: Data center design planning must address many specific site and spatial needs. This Venn diagram shows spatial requirements and the relationship among data center areas. Courtesy: DLR Group

Site-specific space considerations

A data center's proximity to ample electrical capacity, telecommunications carriers, and water utilities is a major priority. However, several other considerations play critical roles. Data center programming and planning must assess and address a variety of specific site and spatial needs (see Figure 1). Assessing the area within 5 miles of the site for potential threats, such as hazardous material operations, is critical. Accidents in these locations should have no effect on the mission critical operation.

Conceptual data center block plan

The data center site's relationship to neighboring properties and roadways plays an important role in assessing and establishing appropriate levels of security. Planning physical structural setbacks for protection from manmade threats affects parking and access to entries and loading docks. Interior-space planning focuses on the logical spatial relationships and the sizes needed (see Figure 2). Requirements dictated by staffing and security posture affect where security and structural separations occur. Some spaces, such as mail processing, are increasingly outsourced or physically separated to control risk.

Figure 2: Depending on client requirements, data center designs can vary significantly. The entire facility must be considered—inside and out—to accommodate adjacent spaces. Planning interior spaces should focus on logical spatial relationships as well as

With the site established, accommodations can be made for exterior and interior electrical, mechanical, and energy storage systems. Within these spaces, an immense amount of power is required to keep the technology running as well as the cooling equipment that's needed 24/7. Consequently, the management of energy and the creation of high availability are business necessities.

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