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HP datacentre taps icy North Sea wind

The fresh air-cooled datacentre at Wynyard, built to take advantage of cold winds in the north-east, aims to save on power and costs
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1 of 11 Tom Espiner/ZDNet

HP has opened a new datacentre at Wynyard near Billingham in north-east England, measuring 300,000 square feet. The datacentre, which will eventually host data for large government and corporate clients, became operational last week.

The datacentre is Tier 3, meaning it has hefty levels of security. It is designed to host clients of HP's Enterprise Services division. Some of the data held by the Department for Work and Pensions is hosted at the centre, while the Ministry of Defence is also a client.

Wynyard is mainly fresh-air cooled, which keeps costs down and lowers environmental impact, according to HP. The company said it built the centre at Wynyard to take advantage of the cold winds that blow off the North Sea.

This picture shows some of the cabinets in data hall 2. Vents in the floor allow air to circulate around the hall. The temperature of the air is maintained at 24°C. There are four 1,000-square metre halls, each with a power capacity of 2.2kW per metre squared.

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2 of 11 Tom Espiner/ZDNet

The racks in the data halls are housed in 'cool cubes' with vents in the floor to circulate the cooled air. Ventilation circulates up through the floor and around the server racks.

When HP was in the process of designing the datacentre, they looked at the 100-year weather record for the region and found that the location was ideal for fresh-air cooling, according to Maurice Julian, HP UK facilities project director.

The datacentre has eight chillers, but HP expects them to be used as chillers for only 20 hours per year, Julian said. The chillers will be run as dehumidifiers for 200 hours per year.

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During normal operations, the fresh air is taken in from the outside through large moveable metal slats called 'louvres'. After being filtered, the air is circulated by slow moving fans into a large space under the data halls called a 'supply plenum'.

The cool air is forced up through the server racks and escapes into the data hall at a temperature of 34°C. This air is then circulated back to mix with the incoming cold air from outside, to be re-circulated around the system.

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Sixty percent of the floor space in the data halls will be taken up by cool cubes with server racks. At the time of writing, the datacentre had only three operational servers, but has the capacity for thousands.

The temperature of the racks is monitored by sensors to make sure they stay at a constant 24°C.

The power utilisation effectiveness (PUE) of the datacentre, which is calculated by dividing the total energy consumed per year by the total energy consumed by IT equipment per year, is 1.2, or 83.3 percent efficient, said HP. Standard industry best practice is to have a PUE of 1.5, or 66.6 percent efficiency.

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Each server rack has its own dedicated key, said Wynyard datacentre manager John Finlayson. Consultants are given an RFID pass, which allow only one key or set of keys to be released from the tamper-proof machine.

Finlayson, shown here, said security in the datacentre was good at present. "We more than meet the security requirements of our existing clients," he added. "That situation may change, as the threat level changes. In that situation we would have to reassess, and adapt our security standards."

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6 of 11 Tom Espiner/ZDNet

Rainwater is harvested from the roof and treated on site to reduce dependency on mains water, said Finlayson. The water is used in the chillers and for purposes sucg as flushing toilets.

Humidity is carefully regulated, as too much would damage the servers, while too little would mean a harmful build-up of static electricity in the equipment.

The tanks, shown on the left in the picture, hold 80,000 litres of water. As the water is treated and the tanks need to be cleaned, the cost is equivalent to mains water, said Finlayson.

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7 of 11 Tom Espiner/ZDNet

There are 12 uninterruptable power supply (UPS) systems, three per data hall. UPS systems like the one shown here guarantee a power supply if the mains supply is cut. The mains supply has two feeds but, in the event of a power failure, the UPS kickstarts diesel generators to prevent data loss or corruption.

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8 of 11 Tom Espiner/ZDNet

There are 10 generators on site. Each generator has a 40-litre V16 engine, as shown here. "One careful owner, never been used," said Finlayson. The generators are capable of producing 2MW of power each.

Finlayson said the electrical systems are currently configured so both mains feeds would have to go down before the UPS system started the generators. Each mains feed has its own substation.

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Finlayson, pictured, shows an array of batteries used to kickstart the diesel generators in the event of a power failure. Batteries are monitored by sensors to see whether they are carrying the requisite amount of charge.

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10 of 11 Tom Espiner/ZDNet

The fire-suppression system is charged with nitrogen, with each sprinkler head operating independently. There is an electric fire pump and a diesel fire pump, with the valves padlocked into their operating positions.

The premises and data halls are ringed by very early smoke detector apparatus (Vesdas), which use laser beams inside pipes to detect smoke particles.

"One of the things that normally set Vesdas off inside datacentres are toasters and microwaves," said Finlayson. "It really is a problem in a datacentre getting people to not walk away while they are using a toaster."

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Approximately half the space in the datacentre premises, which is a modified warehouse, is currently unused. HP is starting to construct more data halls, which will be built on a first floor five metres above ground level. This gives space for the air supply plenum.

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