Facebook Opens Data Center Design to the World

The big announcement in the information technology and data center world today was that Facebook has decided to make their data center and custom server designs open to the public to use in their own designs. This is a huge deal in that world since most data centers have more security than Fort Knox and even their exact location is often disguised. The most interesting part of this news is that Facebook is designing their centers with NO MECHANICAL COOLING. This furthers the trend among all the big players and is driven by the enormous energy consumption of these data centers. Data centers are little more than big warehouses but can have energy loads that exceed 600 watts per square foot.

According to the US EPA, data centers are responsible for some 4.5 billion dollars of electrical energy use annually. This represents 1.5% of all US electrical energy consumption and it is projected to double in the next five years. Shedding some of this enormous energy load is both environmentally and fiscally positive. It can also be essential to utility companies given the cost of building new generating capacity. While the economy is slowed this is not an issue but as the economy grows there might not be enough generating power to go around.

The growing shift to using outside air for cooling data centers has been accelerated by the changing design guidelines from ASHRAE and the server manufacturers themselves. It is now acceptable to operate a data center with air as warm as 86 degrees F entering the servers. Non-mission critical servers can now be operated with entering air temperatures up to 104 degrees F, according to the latest ASHRAE guidelines.

The Aztec and Alton lines of evaporative cooling products make excellent solutions for these buildings since they provide some level of cooling without the need for mechanical cooling. Data center owners get the best of both worlds...low energy use and filtered/tempered air for their servers. An Aztec indirect/direct evaporative cooling unit can supply air temperatures in the mid-60s to mid-70s in a broad part of the US. Aztec units are also “plug and play” units since they include an integral cooling tower. A data center can be brought on-line faster or expanded faster since the Aztec unit is a factory assembled and tested unit that can be set on the roof, or ground, and be up and running with a water and electrical connection.

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