Colocation Trend Drives SunGard Expansion

Julius Neudorfer

SunGard had a grand opening of its new Carlstadt, N.J., data center dedicated to colocation and managed services. According to Frank Casey, VP, Service Transition Lead, at SunGard, which is well known for disaster recovery, the company has been providing managed services, hosting and colocation services for a while, but is adding new dedicated white space with separate infrastructure facilities for colo customers at its Carlstadt data center.

I was given a private tour of the new 12,000-square-foot space. Amazingly, it was apparently designed in February of this year and was built-out and commissioned in remarkably record time. While the space was all new, it was traditional design with 2N electrical (including diverse redundant sub-stations feeds) and N+(20 percent) cooling using individual perimeter DX CRACs. I was somewhat surprised that given the rising demand for housing high-density blade servers, that it was designed with an average power density of only a 100 watts/square foot.

When I mentioned this seemed like a relatively low power density for a new site, Thomas Perkins, senior director of hosting operations, said that it can support a mix of low- and medium-density cabinets to serve tradition customers and some mid-density customers. The data center has a 2-foot raised floor with high-flow floor grates and a 12-foot-high ceiling with free air return to the CRACs. While power was fed under the floor, all other communications cabling, both fiber and cooper, was overhead on ladder racks on multiple levels to improve airflow. In fact, during the tour, I observed a colo customer with three blade servers per cabinet in a caged cluster, which apparently had no cooling issues.

I also had the opportunity to meet and speak with Raymond Larsen, senior director of facilities management. In an ensuing density discussion with him, he indicated that the caged areas and wide aisles help keep the average power density low enough to support some higher-density cabinets. While not exactly leading edge, I am sure this site will prove to be a solid, well-managed, secure, low-medium density data center to serve the traditional colo and managed services customer. 

Larsen also noted that:

 'SunGard uses only top-tier vendors, but is vendor neutral when it comes to infrastructure equipment.'

That is apparently true, since I also had the opportunity to look into the back-end areas, as well as the white space where I observed that while the cooling systems were Emerson-Liebert, some of the power equipments and system were Schneider-MGE.  It made me wonder if the different manufacturers service techs will be singing, 'Why can't we be friends' in the parking lot when they come to do routine maintenance on the equipment.

I also spoke with Robert Salvatore, director of Infrastructure Compliance and Green Initiatives, who indicated that the company projects a annualized PUE of 1.9, which he stated was 'better than the industry average of 2.0'.  I was surprised that given the newness of the design and construction that the company did not have any form cooling economization as part of this new section, especially considering that it did not use any of the older power or cooling infrastructure already present at the other existing sections of the Carlstadt facility.  While he indicated that SunGard is a member of The Green Grid and that it is looking into implementing energy saving initiatives in the future, such as cold-aisle containment, and chimney cabinets to improve airflow separation, things change very slowly in the data center business.

The Bottom Line

Clearly there is a growing trend for many organizations to migrate their computing equipment from their own data centers to colo and managed services providers, as the cost and complexity of upgrading, building and supporting data centers has become a burden that their IT and facilities departments want extricate themselves from. This trend is obviously clear enough for SunGard (as well as other colo providers), to expand the New Jersey site as dedicated colo space and operations to meet the growing demand.

As I noted, while not a leading-edge design in terms of efficiency, it offers the potential colo customer the comfort and security of a traditional data center, without the capital expense and facility responsibilities. And so while hyper-efficient 'chicken coop' with free air cooling data centers may be leading the green charge, traditional designs with lots of CRACs are still bring home the bacon for the colocation operators.

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