Colt aims to make power, cooling management in data centers more flexible

It designed the Ftec data-center architecture to allow power densities to be increased and decreased on the fly

Colt's new data-center architecture is designed to allow operators more flexibility in managing power and cooling, without having to do extensive remodelling, the company said Monday.

The architecture, called Ftec, should be of particular interest to data-center operators,which aren't seeing the growth they expected and are paying for unused capacity.

Ftec allows power densities to be dynamically adjusted while still keeping the data center cool and without necessarily having to shut down servers while doing these readjustments, according to the company.

The project to develop Ftec started about 18 months ago when Colt customers -- operators and enterprises -- began asking Colt if it was possible to increase or decrease the power density and change the related cooling demands in their data centers, according to Guy Ruddock, vice president of design delivery and operations at Colt Data Centre Services.

To make that possible, Colt has developed three technologies: spaceflex, powerflex and coolflex.

Colt started by addressing cooling, which is the key to adjusting most of the parameters in a data center.

"If you want more power in one area, adding that is one thing but you have to get the heat out," said Ruddock.

The result is coolflex, which can use a number of different cooling methods -- including fresh air only, direct-expansion (DX) only, indirect, mixed mode or chilled water -- to meet changing demands, according to Colt.

For example, should the compute power required remain lower than expected, the cooling can be dynamically altered to match that and run more efficiently, resulting in operational savings.

Powerflex makes it possible to build a data center with a 500 watt per square meter power density, which can be scaled as needed to 1,000, 1,500 or even 3,000 watt per square meter, and then go back down again, while spaceflex lets users change and mix the densities within the data center, according to Ruddock.

"[These technologies] open up a whole new vista of flexibility in data centers. Not only do they allow you to buy a data center at a minimum spec, but you can also change your mind and adjust as you go," said Ruddock.

To make all this possible, Colt has worked with ABB-owned Newave Energy International to allow more uninterruptible power supply blocks into an already running system. The company is working with other vendors, which it won't name at this point, according to Ruddock.

Colt also worked with climate control specialist Eaton-Williams to build a backplane for the scalable cooling, and there is a new under-floor design that allows the air flow to be segmented, Ruddock said.

The full Ftec data center will start shipping during the first quarter next year. To take advantage of all the parts, it has to be a new one. CIOs can also pick and choose which components they want to implement.

Building a data center that can scale to the highest power densities will add about 20 percent to the overall cost, according to Ruddock.

The new architecture builds on Colt's existing modular data center, which the company has been building during the last three and a half years.

The modularity was originally a concept for Colt to build its own data centers faster, at a lower cost and in a way that could be replicated across Europe, which makes it easier to operate the data center, according to Ruddock. It then evolved into something that Colt also offered others that wanted to build their own modular data centers, he said.

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