More Extreme Data Centers

Arthur Cole

In data center technology circles, most of the attention goes to hardware and software. Who's got what? How is it integrated? What kind of performance should I expect?

Little attention goes to the facility itself. Are there ways in which the building itself can influence operations? And while most enterprises opt for conventional sites for their data operations, a growing number of organizations are starting to push innovation in new directions, usually in pursuit of some specific operating goals.

Take the city of Altamonte Springs, Fla., for example. Leaders there were getting tired of have to shift resources to different sites whenever a hurricane passed through the region, so they chose instead to pursue the ultimate in disaster preparedness: a giant water tank that had been decommissioned a few years earlier. The structure provides 8-foot thick concrete walls and a low, curved exterior profile that can withstand any winds that Mother Nature cares to throw at it. The site needed about $1.5 million in renovations, plus a pair of SANs and a new virtual infrastructure, but now the city no longer has to worry about a little thing like downtime.

Meanwhile, at Universite Laval in Canada, officials were vexed with a rather unique problem: what to do with an old particle accelerator that had served its purpose. The answer, simply enough, was to build a data center out of it. The 36-foot-wide, 65-foor-high silo was outfitted with three levels of server racks that provided an inner hot-air core surrounded by a circular flow of cool air. The facility houses a Sun Constellation blade supercomputer, providing more than 7,500 cores and 1 PB of parallel storage, shaving more than 1.5 million kWh off the university's annual power budget.

And if size is your thing, you might want to make a pilgrimage to Tokyo to take a gander at IT service company @Tokyo's 1.4-million-square-foot facility. Designed to serve such customers as Tokyo Electric Power and INTEC, word is that virtually the entire building is given over to data center resources, which would make it one of the largest facilities of its kind in the world.

Extreme engineering aside, the benefits of repurposing aging or abandoned facilities for the high-tech future cannot be overstated. Not only does it save a bundle in site costs and construction expenses, it avoids the hassle of demolition and disposal of tons of building debris.

In the end, the new facilities can be made more efficient and deliver a higher quality of service than existing resources, which helps both the bottom line and the community at large.

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