Data center power & cooling success story from Jindal Steel

Manufacturing major Jindal Steel generates its own power for its data center, has innovative data center cooling, and isn't a fan of server virtualization.

Around eight years ago, when Jindal Steel Ltd (JSL) decided to have a proper data center, the issue of data center power and cooling also arose. The unorganized IT setup in place at that time had made it imperative that JSL set up a completely functional data center at Hisar.

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It's essential to understand the reasons behind this move before we dwell on the specifics. The Jindal group, a US $10 billion conglomerate, grew rapidly over the years—from its single-unit steel plant in Hisar, Haryana, to a multi-product steel giant. From the mining of iron ore to the manufacturing of value-added steel products, JSL has a prominent position in India's flat steel segment.

Earlier, JSL had a typical IT department which was divided into a seating area and the machine area. The seating side used general cooling, and more intense cooling on the other side. This was in stark contrast to requirements of the proposed data center setup.

Today, the 5,000 square feet data center uses a clustered server environment with SAP and non-SAP servers (from Dell and Sun respectively). Dell servers utilize the Windows platform, whereas SAP and Sun servers run Solaris. Considering the new environment, it was imperative that JSL went in for a complete revamp of its entire IT setup, especially in terms of data center power and cooling. "We went by the CIA principle—confidentiality, integrity, availability—for our data center. Right from the start, our aim was to think simply in a structured and agile manner," says Ajay Dhir, the CIO of JSL.

Taking into consideration the kind of services that the data center had to provide, data center power and cooling became very important factors. The company took a unique power-generating approach—power for the data center was taken from water turbines in-house. These turbines are situated at Hisar, which has two captive power plants which generate power close to 2x125 MW CPP. The company is also banking on its upcoming power plant in Orissa, which will raise overall power capacity to 2x500 MW. The company plans to sell excess power generated from these plants, since Haryana and Orissa are deficient in terms of power. At present, these two states' governments are more involved in the distribution of power than in its generation. Hence, corporate entities which have the capabilities can sell power to this grid. Thus, JSL does not rely on the state electricity board for its data center power. In case the turbines fail for some reason, there are generators to act as backup data center power sources. JSL's data center uses UPS units from Liebert.

Power being given to IT systems is controlled, because turbines can sometimes generate high voltage power. In addition, JSL's steel plants use high voltages in the electric arc furnace (that melts scrap as one of the core steel components), which creates fluctuations at times. To avoid the impact of such fluctuations on its data center, JSL has isolated power circuits which come from IT systems, and made sure that the circuits are fluctuation-proof. In case of a trip, the data center's primary UPS unit can provide up to eight hours of power backup for its core servers. Once this is exhausted, the other bank of intelligent UPS units takes over.

On the data center cooling front, JSL has incorporated a hot/cold aisle design, along with perforated tiles. Forprecision cooling in the data center, JSL uses air-conditioning units from Voltas, as well as intelligent air-conditioning and control systems from Liebert. JSL also has redundancy on the data center cooling front to maintain an optimum average temperature of 22 degree Celsius round the clock.

Whenever Dhir visits the JSL data center, he tries to check the hot/cold/warm air in different data center zones for mixing of hot air and cold air. "During such a tour, I found that warm air was trapped between particular slots. So we called in personnel from Liebert and Wipro who had helped us design our data center. It was found that someone had just moved the tiles from the non-perforation area to the perforation area. Tiles supposed to be in front were at the back, and back ones were at the front. Due to this, hot air had started to affect the data center's cooling setup".

According to Dhir, it's a handy best practice to use heat load calculation for data center cooling design. After feeding in certain information, tools can tell you the kind of data center cooling required for heat that is generated or will be generated.

Even as the whole world goes gaga about server virtualization and its power-saving virtues, this issue never rose for JSL. According to Dhir, JSL had designed its data center to be very lean right from the start, and took care that the proliferation of servers would not arise.

When it comes to going green, JSL has many initiatives, starting with the data center power and cooling equipment in use; the equipment has been labeled as green by APC Schneider. In plant areas which have a heavy density of computing equipment, JSL has tried to replace obsolete equipment with more power-efficient ones.

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