Spoke last week with Ben Stewart, senior vice president of facility engineering for uber colocation provider Terremark Worldwide, which is building a mammoth data center campus on a new site in Culpepper, Va.
The campus will eventually include five 50,000-square-foot data center structures that can act as carrier-grade federal communications and hosting facilities.
So, when you're a company that makes your living out of selling people a way to build out massive server farms, the pressure is on to lead the way in green cooling techniques. According to Stewart, the company chose its new location in part so it could use free cooling techniques to help reduce utility costs—clearly the biggest ongoing concern for any data center operator. Of course, the bigger reason is that the site it intended to serve the nation's capital region. But stilll, the company can do things in this site that it can't do in others. Miami-based Terremark’s other facilities are located through California, Texas, Brazil and Spain—climates that aren’t conducive to free cooling options.
The first building in the complex will use an air-side free cooler, which works by sucking in the air from the outside and running it through coils to cool the data center. Because the air doesn’t have to be chilled during certain times of the year, the facility saves on electricity and will help reduce the data center’s carbon footprint compared to Terremark’s other facilities. The downside is that outside air needs to be closely filtered and humidified in a data center environment.
Terremark is also using close-coupled cooling design, an increasingly common architecture being used in high-density data centers that moves the cooling systems closer to the heat source. This will involve the deployment of in-line coolers as an option for high-density clients that opt to co-locate there. While this sort of thing might make some data center managers cringe (what if there’s a water leak!?), Stewart says sensor technology is ahead of the game.
Aside from the work going on in Culpepper to reduce its data center's carbon footprint, Terremark has diverted a portion of its electricity purchases into alternative sources, specifically wind turbines, through its utility companies. Terremark also is seriously considering using solar energy as an alternative energy source in the second building going up at the campus, Stewart said. Terremark facilities managers are keeping tabs on industry talk that price per watt for photovoltaic panels is poised to drop dramatically over the next year because of technological advances. Right now, the pricing is roughly $4.50 per watt. The breakthrough price for solar is widely considered to be about half that, Stewart says. Still, this is just talk for now.