Datacentre power and cooling are two of the hungriest monsters on the back of IT organisations. Getting power and cooling costs as low as possible frees up important resources to spend on productivity improvements, it gives more than a nod towards the increasingly critical green agenda, and it will certainly prove popular with customers.
Reducing power and cooling sounds so simple. But, as most IT managers know, the problem with going green is that it means considering not only the energy input and output of the entire system, but the external tendrils beyond direct datacentre control that snake their way into the calculations. To truly go green is a horrendously complex task.
So it is not without a certain amount of pride and fanfare that Peer 1 Hosting is launching its world-class colocation datacentre in Portsmouth, serving businesses in the South East from London to Bournemouth, Basingstoke to Brighton.
The 5,372m2 datacentre at the former IBM manufacturing facility at Langstone Technology Park, on the A3 and just one hour from London by rail, is being billed as the most efficient, in power usage effectiveness (PUE) terms, in the whole of the UK.
Dominic Monkhouse, EMEA managing director of Vancouver-headquartered Peer 1, says the company has calculated that the new 20,000-server facility, which uses technology from UK air conditioning and cooling specialist Excool, will have a PUE of 1.1 - the lowest in the country. The datacentre is built as a series of modules, with the first one now open and three or four more - completing the full 20,000 server complement - to be added over time.
He is excited about the possibilities, driven by the need of organisations and consumers to devour and manage more data than ever before. “The computers that they manufacture in the next two years will have more computing power than all the computers that have ever been manufactured in the past,” says Monkhouse. “We will be offering colocation at down to an eighth of a rack, an octet, or lots of racks, or businesses can have their own cage.”
The new datacentre offers 11 megavolt-amperes (MVA) of power and targets organisations of all sizes. Peer 1 is appealing to companies that wish to keep their data safe away from large metropolitan centres such as London - although the cost differential in terms of rent, while cheaper outside London, is not as influential as one might think, says Monkhouse.
“We thought of building outside London, because we have found [there] that people turn up to work for you but their CVs often never go off the market. You can have 20 per cent staff turnover a year in London, and it really drives the customers demented,” he explains. “It is not good for customers, because we have a services business and our relationship with our customers is our business.
“And just when you have got to the point of being able to truly anticipate the customers’ needs, they [the key employees] leave. So we decided to be regional, rather than based in London.”
Monkhouse says Peer 1 has 10 staff based in Portsmouth out of a UK headcount of 40, but predicts it will double its staff numbers here within 12 months.
“We are growing quickly,” he adds. “We launched in the UK in 2009 and took about 4,000sq ft in [our first datacentre] Fleet. We spent 12 months proving we have a business model that would work in the UK - which is a very hot market [for our industry]. Then we started looking for a location [for this project].”
Peer 1’s most recent datacentre build opened in Toronto last year, with an expected PUE of 1.35. The industry average currently is about 1.8, and the legacy system average is about 2.5 - with 40 per cent of the energy consumption coming from the IT kit, 16 per cent from the electrical system and 44 per cent from the cooling system. PUE, a metric formulated by the global Green Grid organisation in 2007, is calculated by dividing total facility power use by total IT equipment power use.
According to the Green Grid, total facility power is everything that supports the IT equipment load. This includes power delivery components such as UPS, switch gear, generators, PDUs, batteries and distribution losses external to the IT equipment; cooling system components such as chillers, computer room air conditioning units, direct expansion air handler units, pumps and cooling towers; com-pute, network and storage nodes; and other miscellaneous component loads such as datacentre lighting.
Some have criticised PUE as a measurement, arguing that it fails to include all the things that can affect power use. Some do not like the idea of PUE being used to compare datacentres. Also, the measure may alter behaviour in ways that were not intended and do not lower power use consumption. Raising tempe-rature in one piece of kit, for example, might cause other fans or cooling mechanisms to kick in that are less efficient, for the same PUE.
However, the metric has become widely used globally and, given the importance of power use reduction, is likely to remain so. PUE is still used to work out energy efficiency by the EU, the US Department of Energy and Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, for example.
Portsmouth a chance to reduce PUE
Monkhouse notes that older sites incorporating old facilities - such as its recent Toronto build - will need to be upgraded, and can be more difficult to make efficient. The Portsmouth site, while brownfields, is instead taking advantage of the chance to design the entire facility to maximise the effect of the latest datacentre technologies.
It is also benefiting from the fact that some people still working at Langstone Technology Park have been there from the beginning, giving Peer 1 access to the original plans for the building as well as other knowledge of the building and area.
“We have spent the first £10m this year, and between now and the fourth or fifth pod, we will spend about another £20m,” he says. “And it has been nice to go down and see it being built.”
This is the 18th datacentre Peer 1 has built globally and its first colocation offer in the UK. It delivers 5kW per rack, says Monkhouse.
It will compete directly with services offered by current enterprise providers such as Rackspace, and promises fast access to 10Gb backbone connectivity using the company’s FastFiber network. Being away from London, it is suitable for disaster recovery and offsite backup, as well as companies looking for ways to tackle the monster task of going green.
Peer 1 believes there is a shortage of green datacentre capacity in EMEA, which creates a great potential for growth. Meanwhile, the UK Government’s Carbon Reduction Commitment will soon force businesses to consider greener alternatives to current practice.
The UK’s Climate Change Act 2008 set a legally binding target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 by at least 80 per cent from 1990 levels, and at least 34 per cent by 2020. Even so, temperature rises of two or three degrees Celsius and damage from climate change are predicted and the goal is to control the rises and their consequences, according to the government’s green strategy document.
Peer 1’s Monkhouse says: “By investing, we have developed a wholly owned datacentre that leads the way in reducing the carbon footprint for our customers, delivers 24/7 service and provides customers with the capacity to grow.”
The datacentre is kept secure through biometric authentication, ultrasound technology and co-ordinated intruder alarms.
This is the first datacentre deal for Excool, which has spent years testing technology aimed at delivering the most energy-efficient facility possible, says Monkhouse. Indirect adiabatic cooling in a modular external design works by transferring the heat in the indoor air outside using a heat exchange system with energy-efficient fans. The outdoor air stream is cooled on hot days by adding moisture, using atomisers.
According to Monkhouse, the Excool technology will allow the Portsmouth datacentre to slash its power consumption by up to 95 per cent. Up to three Excool units will go live this year, with extra units to roll out as new datacentre modules open.
Bromsgrove-based Excool states on its website that its technology enables a PUE of 1.1 by reducing the contribution of the cooling and the electrical system to power use. In average UK weather conditions, it promises to reduce the energy used by the electrical system to just five per cent, and the energy used by the cooling system to just four per cent of the total.
Monkhouse says Excool has no IP of its own, but has adopted and worked to enhance a blend of widely used components to maximise cooling reliability and efficiency.
“The only moving parts in the system are fans and pumps,” he says. Adiabatic cooling is only needed five per cent of the year in the south of England - the rest of the time, natural cooling is used. Indirect cooling reduces potential contamination and the need to change filters regularly, which can be expensive.
Unlike a chiller that may need 10 minutes to reboot, the Excool system can be powered off a UPS and recovers quickly after a power-restore. High-efficiency plugs and connectors are used as well as electronic inverter drives and unit controls. All fan and motor bearings are sealed. Peer 1 also brought in a consultancy team to project-manage the build: Evolve,which is based in Houston, Texas. Monkhouse says Peer 1 worked with Evolve on the Toronto datacentre, and wanted to use its expertise again.
“The Evolve project manager has been here since January to do the build, and we have been through the design, the thermal factors, the electricals, the mechanicals, the engineering - they have been through all the elements,” says Monkhouse. “And we are very confident of achieving the 1.1.”
Comfortable relaxation or work space
Peer 1 also teamed up with Hampshire design-and-build firm Space and Solutions to install a comfortable and attractive relaxation space for customers and businesses visiting the datacentre - boasting computer games, wireless access and a dartboard as well as offering refreshments. The facility also has conference rooms, 150-seat auditorium and a fitness centre.
Monkhouse invites all interested businesses to come down and see the facility. Peer 1 is highlighting the opportunities available in a series of seminars in and around Portsmouth, Eastleigh and Bournemouth in association with Business Solent.
Sally Lynskey, chief executive of Business Solent, says she welcomes Peer 1 as a champion of the Solent region and supports the new datacentre.
“The Solent is gaining a reputation as being home to some of the leading hi-tech companies and Peer 1 will have an important role to play,” says Lynskey.
Peer 1’s full portfolio includes managed hosting, dedicated servers under the ServerBeach brand and cloud services as well as colocation. Its European headquarters are in Southampton.