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Low Power, High Resillience

17 September 2008

The new Fujitsu datacentre in North London opened this summer demonstrating that as the first Tier III accredited datacentre in Europe, it can also provide a highly resilliant facility and designed to use less energy.

THERE ARE MANY THINGS ABOUT THE MODERN WORLD THAT we only really become aware of when they’re not there or not working properly. And it can seem to facilities managers that they spend the vast majority of their time providing exactly those things, from lighting to HVAC systems, toilets to running water, parking spaces to office seating. All taken for granted until people don’t have them, while their presence,
unacknowledged for the most part, is testimony to the hard work and expertise of an army of unsung heroes.

While many of the services provided by facilities mangers only rarely fail, failure is not an option at all for some environments. Nowhere is this more true than it is for datacentres. According to Gary Payne of Modus
Unitech, ‘In an economy reliant on technology, firms would quickly stop functioning if datacentres stopped working. Business continuity is everything. If a system becomes unavailable or insecure, then it will quickly
become a problem and potentially disastrous. The datacentre must keep flawless standards for ensuring the integrity and functionality of the environment it is home to. The fact that failure is so rare, non-existent in many cases, makes the work that is done designing, building and managing datacentres so impressive. But conversely, it also means all that hard work can go largely un-credited. The users of computers may take working technology for granted a lot of the time but they have a lot of skilled and dedicated professionals to thank for it.’

Modus has just completed work on one of the most advanced datacentres in Europe, a new £44m project for Fujitsu Services in a converted 1970s warehouse at their North London centre. It’s a typically modest exterior for something that is incredibly important according to Payne, who led the Modus team responsible for the architectural design and project management of the new centre. “You would never know it at first
glance, but this is one of the most advanced installations of its kind in Europe,” he says. “The brownfield development site and the redevelopment of an existing building belie the fact that what is happening inside is cutting edge, world class, offering exceptional resilience and the very best low energy credentials.”

He is referring to the centre’s Tier III rating, a classification of datacentre resilience developed in the US by The Uptime Institute (TUI) but now recognised as a global standard.

The new Fujitsu datacentre is the first Tier III accredited centre in the whole of Europe As Payne explains, “It is this combination of business and economic need coupled with environmental concerns that is the most
important current feature of datacentre design. What is great about the way this project has been developed is that we have been able to balance what may have been conflicting objectives – business necessity and
environmental performance – and been able to meet them, without compromise.”

The environmental features of the installation include the use of a carefully designed low energy cooling system including variable speed drive chillers and evaporative cooling towers coupled with variable speed fans, pumps and heat exchangers.

The cooling system is designed to maximise the use of free cooling from partial through to full free cooling, depending on ambient temperature. According to Fujitsu this system saves enough energy to power around 2,000 households every year.

The project will also run in parallel with a programme to modernise customer IT systems to save around 50 per cent of total power consumption. Fujitsu believes the new centre will allow it to save the equivalent to 10,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year and significantly reduce the cost of IT for the business.

In technical terms, the London North centre currently achieves a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of around 1.6 under full design conditions. PUE is a measure of the energy efficiency of a datacentre and is determined by dividing the amount of power entering a datacentre by the power used to run its infrastructure. So, expressed as a ratio, overall efficiency improves as the PUE decreases toward 1. In addition, Fujitsu Services is committed to looking at ways of improving the efficiency of the centre even
further over time.

The building’s services were designed by Red Engineering Design. At the heart of Red’s low energy design is the innovative application of tried and tested engineering principles, achieving minimum energy consumption in each area of the services. In line with TUI recommendations, the design is based on a
‘worst case’ ambient temperature of 38ºC, future-proofing the facility against the potential effects of global warming with an emphasis on using tried and tested technologies in new, sophisticated ways.

The evaporative cooling systems, for example, are well established technologies that offer a significantly more efficient alternative to traditional air cooled systems. High efficiency water cooled chillers supply chilled water at elevated temperatures to maximise opportunities for free cooling and eliminate the need for re-humidification of the air. The chillers have also been configured to minimise energy consumption at part-load. Chilled water circuits are arranged in flow and return rings, rather than the conventional flow and return circuits, allowing areas to be isolated for maintenance without disrupting chilled water flows.

Taking full advantage of the higher return temperatures, heat is recovered from the chillers by a heat pump and used to pre-heat fresh air used for ventilation. Further energy savings are achieved by the use of spray humidification, which requires considerably less energy than conventional steam humidification.

In addition, dimmable, low energy lighting in the data hall is linked to passive infra-red (PIR) occupancy detectors. When the space is unoccupied the lighting is reduced to 20 per cent of full design illuminance, sufficient for the CCTV systems. Energy consumption of lighting in other areas is also minimised through
occupancy based control.

Commendable and desirable though the green performance of the new building is, it would mean nothing if the datacentre were less than totally resilient. Tier III status means that the datacentre provides 99.98 per cent site availability, ‘as near to optimum specification as you can get’ in the words of Payne. Central to this level of resilience is the provision of a diesel rotary uninterruptible power supply (DRUPS) to ensure that power failure will not disrupt service.

“The provision of this specific DRUPS system was not foreseen at the outset,” explains Payne. “It only became apparent as we developed the project that the UPS system we had originally in mind was not the optimal solution so Fujitsu worked with us to re-specify these systems to ensure the project would meet key performance criteria and give the best possible solution. We had the added challenge of ensuring that this
development would not disrupt the final deadline. It has been recognised that datacentres in the south east have been approaching capacity for some time, so the provision of the new site by the middle of 2008 was considered absolutely essential. We had to hit the deadline and ensure that we met or exceeded all of our
performance and environmental objectives. The only option we had was success in providing the right results on time.”


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