Tim: Hello and welcome to the Computerworld Australia live podcast. I’m Tim Lohman, editor at Computerworld Australia. Today our guest is Andrew McEachern, manager data centres at the NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water. Hi Andrew.
Andrew: Hi and thank you for calling me.
Tim: Thank you. Andrew, you’re presenting at Cebit’s Future Proofing Your Data Centre Conference in Sydney on February 14. It would be good to hear a bit about that but perhaps you can tell us first a little bit about the department’s data centre environment.
Andrew: Surely can. I work for the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change. We have three data centres and we’re currently looking at consolidating them into two.
One of our data centres is a highly efficient data centre. It’s out at our Lidcombe ETA Laboratories. It used to run off what we’d call a geothermal earth loop. However, we’ve had some problems associated with that. We’ve taken it off the earth loop for the cooling system and put outside air condensity units.
Another of our data centres is in town and another of our data centres is at Hurstville. Both of those are quite archaic. We are looking to eventually shut a couple of those down.
The load in the data centres isn’t that huge. I think overall we probably use about three Gigawatts of electrical energy a year. So in terms of size they’re not very large.
However, the Department of Environment isn’t into running large data centres. They’re into more running efficient data centres. I guess that gives you an idea of the environment we’re in.
Tim: You touched on the geothermal earth loop. What is that and what were you doing with it?
Andrew: ... It’s a very simple idea and technology. It’s used quite well overseas in the northern hemisphere. Basically ... you use fresh water cooled airconditioning units. You exchange the heat from the data centre into those airconditioning units and they then send it through loops in the ground via rather large pumps. Those loops dissipate the heat and the water comes back at a cooler temperature.
Unfortunately for us, the geothermal earth loop wasn’t particularly designed for this size of data centre. So we had an increase in the water temperatures over the periods of years in the ground and we found last year that we were running our airconditioning units, the minimum water temperature we were getting to them was 35 degrees Celsius. It got up to 47 degrees Celsius. It’s actually a miracle that they stayed running. Unfortunately you can’t keep treating this type of equipment that way and we were suffering from significant failures.