Technology Evolution Offers Excitement for Young Engineers

Hannah Sharland •

What we learned during a Q&A with a panel of Vertiv engineering experts

It’s not often you get the chance to bring together engineering professionals with 60 years of combined experience for a live chat going around the virtual data center covering common industry misconceptions, best practices, and what the future looks like for data center technology.

The panellists agreed it’s a truly exciting time for engineers, especially the young engineers starting their careers as there is a whole new generation of technology, giving them many options to consider and use. Russell Bulley, Technical Manager EMEA, gave an example of DC power technology which has been in the media spotlight thanks to the automotive industry with the manufacturing of electric vehicles. He predicts DC power will start coming into the data center as it's already been successfully used by the telecoms industry who've been deploying DC power for decades.

Prefabricated Modular Data Centers are Far More Than Containers

"Containers are a lot of things, but a data center is not one of them," said Nicolas Fontes, Global Solutions Sales Director.

He then went on to explain the main driver for prefabricated modular data center adoption is the speed of deployment, citing the example of an 18-megawatt (MW) hyperscale facility where choosing prefab saves the customer three months build time compared to a stick build. And because that hyperscale customer will be looking to replicate the design for future deployments you then start to see increasing economies of standardization as they can save more time, like six months.

Nicolas continued, "I guess that some of you may think six months is nothing when you're talking about a facility that's going to last 20 years. And that's a good remark, but nowadays, the CEO is interested in the money it's going to get out of the data center. If you're a colo that has a 15 MW rented facility over six months, it would equal about 10 million euros in revenue."

Data Center Sustainability is a C-Suite Topic

Gabriel Bonilha, Professional Services Manager EMEA, raised the topic of sustainability correlating to data center energy efficiency has become a boardroom discussion. I asked Gabriel what he's currently advising legacy data center operators to do in this regard:

  1. Set measurement baselines. Data analytics are mandatory, implementing smart metering and monitoring technologies to manage energy usage and seek out efficiencies.
  2. Take a holistic approach to the facility looking at power and cooling; looking at temperature set points, humidity set points, optimization options, and space segmentation; and consider upgrades like EC fans.
  3. Focus on thermal management. In legacy sites, it common to find power usage effectiveness (PUE) rates of 2 or 1.5. For those facilities, we find that cooling can be around 30% of the total consumption, so cooling is a major area for improvement.
  4. Make it iterative. Small improvements can be made on lighting, so check the lifts and office side of the facility as well.

Russell argued that cooling is not always the major area of improvement. When explaining a client's site, he said, "this client has several Chloride® 90-NET UPS systems which are 10-12 years old. These once state-of-the-art machines are still working, and the energy savings are about a million pounds a year for this client." Russell went on to explain that even if the system is still working, advances in technology happen so quickly that upgrading a UPS to the latest energy saving technology can drive additional savings.

Lastly, on legacy facilities, Gabriel explained how flexible funding options such as energy savings as a service (ESaaS) are attractive to the CFO as they do not require CapEx investment to optimise their sites as Telefonica did.

Containment: Some Like it Hot

Staying on the topic of energy efficiency, I asked Simon Galletti, Sales Team Leader - Thermal the best ways to manage data center airflow. He explained that containment is the way forward to give you the biggest boost in efficiency on your cooling system. "Legacy sites don't often have any type of containment but it's simple and effective to deploy a data center containment strategy, so the cold space and hot space are separated, and this allows the system to run at much higher temperatures."

Simon explained there's a debate to be had over hot versus cold aisle containment in terms of the best approach, and both have their pros and cons which can be presented below:

Cold Aisle Hot Aisle

Pros:

  • Simple and cost-effective to deploy as a retrofit
  • Delivery of cold air is typically through a raised floor, which many legacy sites already have

Pros:​

  • Generally, more effective and more efficient because if you did have a raised floor then leakage would go into the cold space, so you're not losing efficiency
  • You don't need a raised floor

Cons:

  • If you're containing the cold space, the rest of the room becomes your hot aisle at 36-40+ degrees centigrade, and that's a problem for your engineers maintaining that equipment

Cons:​

  • More expensive and it often carries issues when deploying in existing sites because you have cable trays or services at the top of the room

Simon ended with "if you were to build new and you have the possibility of both, I would say probably hot aisle is the way to go, but it often isn't possible in some sites or some buildings, and it can be more expensive." Simon explained, it's more expensive because the hot air from the aisle needs to be ducted back to the cooling units, whereas, with cold aisle containment, you only need to discharge in the raised floor, which is often already on site (if a retrofit) and is commonly used for distribution of pipework/cables. This is where real experience is needed in the specifying stage.

Future Thinking

To end the discussion, I asked all our panelists to give me their predictions for the future when it comes to data center design.

Both Simon and Russell agreed that behind-the-meter energy storage is the future. Russell says that the community energy systems will become the way forward to support local electricity demands but unfortunately, right now, the incentives to do this is aimed at the very big producers of energy, in terms of 50+ megawatts, the smaller users like shops, offices, commercial sites are not being well incentivized to take part in the big grid market yet.

And lastly, the future means more data — more data to transport, to store, to processes — which means more data center facilities being built globally. Nicolas and Simon confirmed that standardization in terms of design and scalability to grow your facility depending on needs is paramount nowadays and will continue to be the case. See how eStruxture Data Center is scaling based on customer demand.

To end, it's going to take the engineers of the future to help design and build the facilities that will support our ever-increasing global data demands, so very exciting times for young engineers to join the industry!

To listen to the panel discussion in full, you can watch the recording with our experts here. If you have any questions, please connect with the panel on LinkedIn or reach them via email.

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Russell Bulley
Technical Manager EMEA

Russell.Bulley@vertiv.com

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gabriel-bonilha.jpg

Gabriel Bonilha
EMEA Professional Services Manager

Gabriel.Bonilha@vertiv.com

Connect on LinkedIn

nicolas_fontes.jpg

Nicolas Fontes
Global Solutions Sales Director Vertiv

Nicolas.Fontes@vertiv.com

Connect on LinkedIn

simon.galletti.jpg

Simon Galletti
Sales Team Leader - Thermal

Simon.Galleti@vertiv.com

Connect on LinkedIn

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