Inside Colt's modular co-location datacentre

Inside Colt's modular co-location datacentre

Summary: Colt's London 3 facility houses its new modular datacentre, featuring a design that aims to cut deployment times, cost and energy usage. ZDNet UK took a look behind the scenes


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  • Each module has 12 components running through its columns

    Ruddock (pictured) told ZDNet UK that the build out for the new halls started in December 2009 and the first customer was in by April 2010.

    Colt has based its design techniques on those used on offshore oil and gas platforms to minimise the amount of people it takes to fit a module, Ruddock said. He said that a crew performing on-site installation of a module would number less than 20 and could do it, in ideal circumstances, in between four and six days, although one installation had taken as long as three weeks.

    Another design, which Ruddock believes is unique to Colt, has services such as cabling, electricity and fire suppression running through the columns that support the module. This saves on space and, again, cuts the time it takes to cable a module, he said.

    The modules are manufactured in Yorkshire, then their infrastructure is tested. They are then broken down into small components that are trucked down to London on the backs of flatbed trucks for reassembly and installation. The installation, transportation and client-site integration process takes less than four months, Ruddock said.

    Photo credit: Jack Clark

    See more of the datacentre tour on ZDNet UK.

  • Filled aisles are blocked off using panels

    Each 5,381-square-foot module can take up to 750KW of IT load, although, if needed, some can go as high as 825KW. Each module can support up to 204 fully sized racks or 254 smaller racks.

    The average draw per rack is 4KW, but each rack can suck down as much as 20KW of power, providing dummy servers are positioned either side of it. These dummy server panels ensure separation between hot and cold aisles and keep the power draw stabilised.

    Each module has a design life of between 20 and 25 years, according to Colt.

    When filled out, each processing aisle (pictured) within the datacentre becomes self-contained. Cold air circulates in at the bottom front grills, and hot air circulates in via the back.

    Because the new aisles have a lower power usage effectiveness (PUE) than the legacy hardware on site — 1.21 versus 1.6 — Colt is moving the most power-hungry hardware over in stages, with cloud hardware going in first.

    The low PUE is attained by a combination of hot and cold aisle separation, airflow modelling and free-air cooling. The airflow modelling is done via a computational fluid dynamics program, which orchestrates the positioning of each rack according to power consumption to assure a smooth air path throughout the module.

    When touring the module, ZDNet UK saw IBM blades, IBM system storage and Cisco networking. Ruddock said any hardware that can be racked can be supported, as Colt acts as a co-location provider.

    Photo credit: Jack Clark

    See more of the datacentre tour on ZDNet UK.

  • The entire datacentre sits inside a large warehouse

    Each of the modules ZDNet UK saw were stacked on top of one another inside Colt's 100,000-square-foot warehouse (pictured).

    The exterior of the modules contained the chilling systems, which drew in cold air coming in through grills in the warehouse's shell. The cooling is predominantly achieved through free-air cooling, though there is a direct-expansion cooling system running as backup.

    The direct expansion cooling system operates for less than 300 hours a year (12.5 days), according to Ruddock, kicking in when the temperature threshold goes above 27° or when air humidity goes above 70-percent relative humidity.

    Photo credit: Jack Clark

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Topics: Datacentre Tour, Networking

Jack Clark

About Jack Clark

Currently a reporter for ZDNet UK, I previously worked as a technology researcher and reporter for a London-based news agency.

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