Apr 26, 2012

Achieving high-power densities in colocation environments


A while ago, I was reading a white paper published by Intel discussing different methods to achieve high density in an air-cooled environment. It got me thinking about the different approaches I have seen or heard about in the data center industry and how best to apply them in a retail colocation environment. Because of the differences in supporting multiple customer environments, from basic servers to virtualized environments to blades, retail colocation requires a level of flexibility that doesn’t exist in most other uses of a data center.

The general consensus seems to be that you need a hot or cold aisle containment system and/or in-row cooling to achieve higher power densities. Unfortunately, I’ve seen plenty of providers who use hot/cold aisle containment fail to meet customer needs. While these are all sound approaches, they compromise our customers’ ability to install the environment they want and impair our flexibility in providing that environment. I am also concerned about how these solutions can introduce additional points of failure into the equation such as fans, under-floor piping and the proximity of liquid coolant closer to customer equipment.

The solution suggested by Intel proposes 15KW or more is achievable without major modifications to the standard raised floor infrastructure and air delivery systems in use today. The containment is accomplished via a chimney attached to the cabinet and return plenum. This solution requires no new moving parts that might fail and no new coolant proximity risks, plus no impact to flexibility. Best of all, if the facility is designed for it from day one, this solution can, through the higher density and lowered investment as compared to other high power density methods, lower the customer’s total cost of ownership and offer the solution provider a competitive advantage.

After much discussion with people far smarter than me and plenty of third party validations, this is the solution that Internap has chosen to use in our new facilities in Dallas, Los Angeles and Atlanta. High power density without compromise.

What’s your take on achieving high power densities?

Download our white paper: Future-Proofing Your Data Center Investment with Scalable Density for more on high-density solutions.

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