In a New Zealand first, telecommunications provider Compass Communications has introduced EcoCooling at its new Te Rapa data centre facility.
With the difficulty of maintaining the operating temperatures of powerful computers among the major challenges facing data centre operators, EcoCooling claims to be up to 90 percent more efficient than traditional air conditioning systems, reducing power consumption and delivering a more environmentally friendly facility.
That sounds almost too good to be true, agrees Compass Communications CNS Operations Manager Steve McCarthy, but it has been proven in over 200 data centres around the world.
“Traditional data centre cooling uses lots of chilled water which in turn uses a lot of power,” McCarthy says. “EcoCooling, on the other hand, uses filtered fresh air and tap water.
“Now, for the first time, EcoCooling is being put to work in New Zealand, resulting in a data centre which costs less to run.”
Produced by a UK-based company, the EcoCooling system leverages the principle of evaporative cooling; when water evaporates, heat is absorbed and the temperature drops (a principle which is at work to cool us when we sweat).
The EcoCooling system draws in fresh air, filters it and measures the temperature; if it is too cool, the incoming air is mixed with exhaust air from the data centre.
Too warm, and the air is cooled through the evaporation of water, which is supplied into the system at normal mains pressures. Air of the appropriate temperature is then circulated into the servers and other equipment within the data centre.
“A cold air containment system is in place, with ducting above, feeding cool air into the front of the equipment,” McCarthy adds.
“Hot air is extracted and vented, or reused in the system if required.”
McCarthy points out that the traditional perception that data centre equipment requires cold air has given way to an understanding that continuous flow is what is required.
“If that air is between 23 and 26 degrees, with controlled humidity, it is quite suitable,” McCarthy adds.
As to why more local data centres aren’t yet using EcoCooling, McCarthy says operators of such facilities are quite conservative, and for good reason.
“You don’t want any surprises in a data centre, particularly with something as critical to effective operations as cooling,” McCarthy adds.
“However, EcoCooling is proven internationally; in some data centres, its introduction has not only reduced power consumption, but also resulted in the closing down and removal of traditional refrigeration equipment, freeing up floor space.
“That means the ability to add more servers and grow the capacity of the data centre.”
With electricity high among the costs of any data centre, the new Compass facility enjoys advantages unique in New Zealand thanks to its EcoCooling, which McCarthy says reduces operating costs by up to 25 percent, offsetting to some extent the considerable capital investment involved in establishing a new data centre.
The Compass Communications Te Rapa facility is in the process of being commissioned and is Compass Communication’s second data centre. Designed as a Disaster Recovery site, it complements the company’s existing Auckland site or any other hosting site for high availability configurations.