Defense mechanism

6/30/2012 | Words: Robert Sheldon | Pictures: Vantage Data Centers

emergency power, data center

Large data centers are notoriously hungry for power. Computer servers depend on it to keep humming. So does the air conditioning and ventilation equipment required to cool the servers down. When a data center can improve its energy efficiency, it not only reduces operating costs but it also provides additional safeguards against power loss. Vantage Data Centers did just that in their facility in California, using novel energy-saving techniques and emergency standby generator sets from MTU Onsite Energy.

Six MTU Onsite Energy emergency backup gensets ensure that electricity is never in short supply at the facility.?
Six MTU Onsite Energy emergency backup gensets ensure that
electricity is never in short supply at the facility.

Top online companies count on Vantage Data Centers to protect data used for social networking, social commerce, online social gaming, cloud storage and video game development. Data security is of such high concern that the companies won’t even divulge their names to the outside world.

At Vantage’s new 73,000-square-foot expansion facility - called V2 - the name of its sole tenant is also kept private. Like other Vantage customers, it values Vantage’s commitment to energy efficiency. According to Greg Ness, Vantage’s Chief Marketing Officer, Vantage “develops highly efficient and customizable data centers that significantly reduce IT infrastructure, cooling costs and carbon emissions so customers can substantially reduce their total cost of operations.”

Lower temperatures, lower costs
From the top down, the V2 facility was built to save energy. Ness says that the V2’s cooling system utilizes an energy-efficient design that allows cool outside air to flow down on the racks of servers. Vantage also lowered the static pressure inside the building, which has cut power consumption significantly. Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) is a measurement of data center efficiency. According to the Uptime Institute, typical data centers have average PUEs above 1.9. Some even have a rating as high as PUE 3.0 - meaning that two-thirds of a facility’s power consumption would be used for cooling and only one-third for the IT equipment. Vantage’s V2 facility has a PUE of 1.12, one of the best ratings in the industry. Operational efficiencies also impact the emergency standby power system requirements. With lower energy demand, more redundancy can be built into a system. This ensures exceptional reliability - which is crucial for data centers that need to maintain uptime at all times. Of course, engineering and design play a key role in reliability, too. Vantage found the quality they needed in MTU Onsite Energy emergency standby generator sets. “MTU Onsite Energy generator sets were selected on the basis of their superior load acceptance and performance - their ability to be hit with full load and then quickly recover voltage and frequency,” says Steve Homan of Valley Power Systems, an MTU Onsite Energy distributor.

The tests went so well that Vantage and their onsite engineer said it was one of the best performances they ever witnessed.Steve Homan, Valley Power Systems

A greater power
Outside V2 in a weatherproof enclosure, the six 3,000 kW generator sets are standing by, ready to spring into action at any time. Each generator set features an MTU 20V 4000 generator-drive engine with approximately 20 percent more cylinder displacement than other engines of similar horsepower. “The greater displacement supplies more reserve torque and help the generators absorb a full load in one step and recover
quickly,” says Homan. “The greater displacement also reduces fuel consumption and reduces stress on the engine’s internal parts, improving reliability and longevity.”

Cabinets like these house the technological backbone of many corporations. The servers, air conditioning and ventilation systems require large amounts of energy.?
Cabinets like these house the technological
backbone of many corporations. The
servers, air conditioning and ventilation
systems require large amounts of energy.

Since online companies can grow rapidly, Vantage has a plan to expand. “We initially deployed these six standby generator sets for V2, but we plan on having a total of ten generator sets when the building is complete,” says Jennifer Fraser, Director of Design Construction for Vantage Data Centers. “The facility is designed for growth and the self-contained generator sets are located outdoors so we can incrementally increase the number of generators more easily.” To comply with local environmental ordinances, the generator enclosures are designed to reduce sound to 73 decibels. In addition, each generatordrive engine is outfitted with a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) to capture any soot in the exhaust to comply with California’s strict air quality rules.

Redundancy ensures reliability
Like most data centers, the V2 facility has a backup plan to its backup plan. Redundancies are in place to prevent loss of data or service during utility outages, most often caused by lightning storms. According to Fraser, the facility has utility feeds from two sources in addition to its Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) systems and emergency standby generators. If one utility feed fails, the second feed will automatically take over and supply the facility. If both utility feeds fail, the UPS system would supply power to the servers while all six generators start and take over the load. In the unlikely event that one or more of the generators did not start, there would still be enough standby power to supply the load. The generators can operate for approximately 24 hours before they need refueling.

The data centers are also ready for other forces of nature. Since earthquakes are common in Southern California, all enclosures and MTU Onsite Energy generator sets have been certified to withstand seismic activity. “All of Vantage Data Centers’ projects are designed to the International Building Code seismic standard and carry a critical facility importance factor of I=1.5,” says Fraser. Facilities that carry an I=1.5 rating have life-safety or mission critical issues that require emergency standby generator sets that can survive an earthquake and still operate normally.

Passing the test

Vantage didn’t leave anything to chance. The V2 emergency standby power system endured rigorous testing to make sure all the components performed as designed. During this process, the generator sets undergo a utility power interruption. According to Homan, “The tests went so well that Vantage and their onsite engineer said it was one of the best performances they had ever witnessed.” The Vantage facility design is a model
for energy efficiency, as well as power reliability. Through innovative building and mechanical systems, plus careful integration of emergency standby power systems,
Vantage keeps massive amounts of data flowing, with no stoppage in sight.

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