Revera builds cool next-generation datacentres

The project will increase capacity at the company's datacentres from about 2,500 servers each to 6,500, says CEO

Datacentre outsourcing company Revera has invested up to $10 million in new datacentres to capitalise on the move towards dense computing and virtualisation.

The company launched its new datacentres in Auckland and Wellington last week.

“There’s been a 180-degree shift in the way we design datacentres,” says Revera chief executive Wayne Norrie. “The 1980s-style datacentre is not able to cope.”

High-density computing, in which server farms are created using high capacity — but very hot — blade servers, may realise the dream of computing as a utility service, but they require a totally new cooling approach.

Norrie says Revera scoured the globe for a “cool” new design, eventually finding a model in Italy, before commencing with its own development. He was not prepared to put a price on the project, beyond saying it was in the range of “$2 million and $10 million”.

“In the old days, we focused on the hot air, now we focus on the cold air, to maximise efficiencies,” he says.

The Revera datacentres are using a system the company dubs Type R3 cooling. Norrie says a modern cooling strategy must satisfy two requirements: power design, as cooling can’t be lost for even 60 seconds with any hope of bringing temperatures back under control; and both the control and an understanding of the direction of cold air. Air has to pass over the blades at just the right speed to cool them without picking up heat, says Norrie.

“It’s not just blowing air down an aisle,” he says. “No cold air is wasted and it’s controlled and directed dynamically, and none escapes.”

Revera is looking at patenting some of the systems it has developed for its new facilities.

The project will increase capacity at the company’s datacentres from about 2,500 servers each to 6,000 or 6,500. With virtualisation, each physical server could accommodate up to ten virtual servers, so real capacity could be as high as 120,000 servers, says Norrie.

This means businesses will no longer have to use half the capacity of a fixed-sized box for business applications. Application sizing will no longer be as important, as extra virtual capacity can be allocated dynamically in about 20 minutes, he says.

The change also means we are approaching delivering IT as a utility — just like electricity or water — where users can use, and pay for, the capacity or power they use. Charging will be by “logical units”, rather than by space or electricity consumption.

Norrie says the new environment will make it easier for smaller companies to adopt virtualisation. And “minimal response” disaster recovery will also be available.

Under this kind of low-cost DR, a best practice back-up system can be built in a few hours to replace internal systems, rather than having — and paying for — a complete mirror 24/7.

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