Four into one goes
16-05-2012 - John Hatcher
Birkbeck, University of London’s decision to consolidate four equipment rooms into one data centre was prompted by a significant rebuilding and redevelopment programme. The College’s decision to work with data centre expert 2bm has resulted in a dedicated, state-of-the-art space with a predicted Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) rating of just 1.3.
2bm’s combination of innovative cooling solutions and tailored power infrastructure within a very tight space has enabled Birkbeck to create a flexible data centre. The data centre will continue to support the IT requirements of diverse teaching and research staff and facilitate ongoing innovation, including desktop virtualisation.
In common with many educational establishments, the College’s IT development has often been led by academic departments. As a result, in 2008, Birkbeck found itself with four, separate, small equipment rooms with their own cooling and UPS, each providing services to specific College departments.
However, when the Estates department announced that one of these rooms had to be vacated due to forthcoming electrical work, Birkbeck decided there was an opportunity to consolidate the IT infrastructure. David Willcox, IT infrastructure manager for Birkbeck’s IT Services confirms, “One of the other rooms was also no longer fit for purpose; it had evolved over time and was beyond its sell by date. There was a clear opportunity to rationalise, consolidate and create a single, state-of-the-art data centre to support Birkbeck’s future IT requirements.”
The College also wanted to take the opportunity to improve data centre efficiency and drive down energy consumption as far as possible. “Birkbeck has a responsibility to act with due diligence and is committed to carbon reduction,” Willcox says. “The development of this new data centre would have happened anyway; but it also provided an opportunity to exploit innovative data centre designs wherever possible with a view to maximising efficiency and reducing energy usage.”
The primary challenge for 2bm was the delivery of 56 cabinets with a design of 240kW technical load, together with all the facilities support infrastructure required within a miniscule 180m2 of floor space, and a low floor to ceiling height of 3.1m. This was achieved by the use of 2bm’s ‘overhead conditioned air delivery system’ which forms a major component of the contained cold aisle pods.
The conditioned air is supplied to the pods using high efficiency perimeter chilled water fan coil units. This negated the need for a raised access floor which would have been impossible to install without the requirement for more space. New free cooling chillers are to be installed on the roof of the College and maximum free cooling is achieved by high design water flow and return temperatures.
There has been an overall reduction in power consumption. Indeed, this new data centre is projected to have a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) rating in the region of 1.3 compared to a typical industry standard of 2.5 PUE.
Critically, however, the data centre will support the college’s ongoing provision of technology. “The reliance upon IT within Birkbeck cannot be understated,” he says. “We have to be as flexible and reactive in terms of the IT requirements of our teaching staff and researchers as possible and anything that provides better protection and an improvement in performance and availability is incredibly valuable.”