Data centre turns to gas

Refrigerated gas cooling is helping Sydney data centre Equinix to deploy dense blade server implementations.

Equinix's Sydney data centre has become the first such facility in Australia to adopt Emerson Network Power's XD in-row refrigerated gas cooling systems

The new system uses Liebert-branded equipment that sits between racks of equipment, a novel configuration that proponents say improves on under-floor cooling by placing cooling units adjacent to equipment. With blade computers bringing tens of kilowatts of equipment to a single rack, this style of cooling is said to be more efficient that cooling an entire data centre to a temperature at which it can safely house large blade deployments.

Equinix installed the system for a client whose computers are configured in a density that exceeds the overall cooling rating for the data centre.

"The data centre is designed to cool two kilowatts per cabinet," says Managing Director Doug Oates.

TechTarget ANZ visited the area of the data centre cooled by the new system and saw some racks with up to 20 kilowatts of equipment in use by the client, understood to be a digital film production house.

Oates says that Equinix was faced with either leaving some of its floor space vacant to ensure it had sufficient cooling capacity for other clients, or applying specialised cooling.

The company chose the latter because, as Oates says, "We do not want 'dead space'."

The liquid gas is pumped in from the ceiling and is used by cooling units mounted to the side of the racks carrying a combined 20kw of equipment. No increased in noise or decrease in temperature were noticeable to this lay observer in the zone cooled in this manner.

Oates said Equinix chose refrigerated gas partly because the company is uncomfortable with the idea of chilled water being delivered into the cabinet area, which has the potential to damage clients' equipment in the event of a leak.

"We believe the gas option is much safer and more acceptable to our customers."

The experience of introducing the new cooling has also helped Oates formulate a new view on the future capacity of data centres.

According to some of the cooling vendors 50kw racks are possible, however Oates doesn't think it is likely we will see data centres built to this design anytime soon. "The economics just don't make sense," he says, referring to the cost of providing the support systems for a data centre full of 50kw blades.

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