HP Introduces a Flexible Data Center

Julius Neudorfer

Hewlett-Packard today uveiled a Flexible Data Center with an interesting "half-twist" claim and a new design premise.

The 'half twist' is that it claims a 50 percent lower CapEx cost for a greenfield buildout, projected at $8-9 million per megawatt. As for the design, it is meant to resemble the shape of a butterfly (sort of).

According to HP, 'The HP Flexible Data Center is based on a 'butterfly' design featuring four prefabricated quadrants or modules that stem off a central administrative section. The HP offering uses prefabricated or industrial components to improve cost efficiencies as well as a streamlined building process with a variety of options for power and cooling distribution.'

Kfir Godrich, CTO of Technology Services at HP, says that while HP has standardized the physical design of the data center shell, HP offers the customer the option to efficiently customize the final configuration for different power levels by using modular UPSes.  Moreover, they can choose from four types of cooling systems designed to be most efficient for different climates, mostly using outside air economizers for primary cooling, with DX cooling units (not chilled water) as backup for those warmer days. Even more interestingly, one choice uses a Kyoto Wheel, which has not gained much traction in the U.S. yet.

Of course, all this begs the question, what does 'efficient' really mean? HP stated that by optimizing the design choices of power and cooling systems options, the Flexible Data Center achieved an impressive annualized PUE of 1.18. This value was taken from a cost comparison study based on output for the example site located in Charlotte, North Carolina. For this site, the cooling system used was indirect evaporation with air-to-air heat exchangers with (DX) assist.

The HP Flexible Data Center specifications in most other respects are very straightforward. Each of the four quadrants are approximately 5,000 SF, built around a rectangular central core of approximately the same size, forming the 'butterfly.'  Each section can support up to 800KW of critical load (total of 3.2 MW), with an expected typical power density of 5KW per rack (an average of 160 Watt/SF). However, Kfir Godrich indicated that HP can support up to 30KW per rack if containment systems are used.

Infrastructure simplicity is the watchword for this butterfly design. Each section is independent of the others and has limited redundancy (single generator, switchgear, UPS and cooling system), to minimize cost and complexity. However, HP claims that a 'tier 3 type' of redundancy at the quadrant level can be achieved by considering each section of the butterfly to be a part of the overall computing node, which can mirror the function of another section. Depending on the computing architectural design, each section can be part of the whole, to create a 2N or N+1, purpose built computing system, which would be ideal for cloud type computing.  A possibly viable strategy for some Internet cloud computing operations, but it may not satisfy the mission-critical enterprise crowd. However, for those enterprise folks, HP will offer whatever level of electrical and mechanical infrastructure redundancy the customer wants, of course, at an additional price.

Now for the official press release stuff.

PALO ALTO, Calif., July 27, 2010-HP today introduced a new way for clients to cut capital investment requirements for the design and build of data centers in half while decreasing their carbon footprint by 14 percent.(1)

The patent-pending HP Data Center offers a standardized, modular approach to designing and building data centers that allows clients to replace traditional data center designs with a flexible solution that can be expanded as needed while conserving resources.

?The pressure to save on capital and operating expenditures is one of the most critical issues facing enterprises today, said David J. Cappuccio, vice president and chief of research, Gartner. ?When building new data centers, clients need to consider options that support business growth, while also saving time and costs.

?Financial institutions create an enormous volume of data, which means they need to be able to quickly add capacity to their data center without disrupting business, Bob Cashner, senior vice president, Corporate Properties, Wells Fargo.

?HP FlexDC is a promising new approach to the way organizations can meet computing demands efficiently while addressing capital-intensive data center costs.

Pricing and availability
HP Flexible Data Center is available through HP Critical Facilities Services. Pricing varies according to location and implementation.

The Bottom Line: While giant Megacenters (25-50MW and getting larger) are still being designed and will continue popping up like mushrooms for some time yet (some built by HP), it would seem that HP also thinks we may have an inflection point ahead in the data center size and power curve, and simple and smaller may be the next wave in data centers. HP is looking to cover all ends of the market.  Stay tuned, as we will be following to see if this materializes into an increasing trend.

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