Adding data centre capacity block by block

If you're thinking you might reclaim some space in the data centre when you migrate to blades, think again. Blade densities are so great they typically overpower data centre cooling capabilities.

The average tile in a perforated raised floor can provide enough cooling for up to 3kW per equipment rack, more than adequate for a typical rack that uses 1.5kW of power and puts out 1.5kW of heat (about 5 to 6 BTUs), says Neil Rasmussen, CTO and one of the founders of American Power Conversion (APC), a company best known for its uninterruptible power supply products.

But blade racks can reach more than 10 times the density of traditional systems, so cooling a 15kW blade server rack would require stealing cooling from five to seven surrounding floor tiles. That results in what some corporate IT folks are reportedly calling the Stonehenge look: high-density racks surrounded by empty floor space.

That's one factor that drove APC to develop InfraStruXure High Density, which will be announced next month.

This system builds on APC's existing InfraStruXure line of modular data centre rack, power and cooling components by bundling everything together into self-contained cubes, complete with ceilings. "We saw an opportunity to design data centres as a system, to get away from the need to buy a headlight, a fender and the other parts, and then bolt them all together," Rasmussen says.

A 10-foot-by-10-foot InfraStruXure High Density cube can support up to 40kW worth of server, storage and switch/router gear. The cubes come pre-wired and pre-configured, meaning you can go with the basics or create high-availability cubes with redundant everything.

While each cube has to be fed electricity and a means to condition air - either an external condenser or a water source - the cubes are otherwise self-contained and can be dropped in anywhere. They return ambient temperature air so they can be added to data centres without stressing existing resources, and because they contain cooling they can sit on the floor, meaning you can even use them in unused office space.

What's more, the whole system is modular and can be brought in through standard-width doors and regular elevators.

"The components snap together," Rasmussen says.

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