Rapid data centre expansion
When the Finland-based CSC – IT Centre for Science needed to expand its data centre infrastructure, it turned to CommScope and its Data Center on Demand (DCoD) family of prefabricated modular data centres.
Managed under the auspices of Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture, CSC is a major research resource for the country. It has developed and maintained a comprehensive IT infrastructure, providing IT services and research management for libraries, museums and other cultural entities across Finland.
Increasing data processing demands from research centres throughout Finland had placed untenable strains on CSC’s existing data centre facilities. The company needed a new data centre facility that would fit within a certain budget, have a short time to deployment and feature a robust design that would withstand Finland’s harsh temperatures.
“More and more research work was requiring compute power that can only be provided by high-performance computer (HPC) facilities necessitating power loads in excess of 30 kW per data cabinet,” said Jukka-Pekka Partanen, head of data centres for CSC. “The challenges arising from loads of this size are twofold: providing the energy to drive the servers, switches and storage; and cooling the IT equipment operating at these high power levels.”
While researching options for a new data facility, a traditional brick-and-mortar data centre was dismissed due to costs and operational inefficiencies. As explained by Tero Tuononen, director of ICT platforms for CSC, “Our existing brick-and-mortar template would not work.
“We simply couldn’t afford to continue down that path while, at the same time, running our old data centres with the same personnel,” Tuononen said. “We needed a more cost-efficient approach with a properly prepared site that could accommodate multiple data centres, with the ability to scale on demand as our needs changed.”
CSC chose CommScope’s DCoD solution with its prefabricated modular design. Tuononen said the modular data centre strategy was “a logical choice”, as it “eliminated the planning risks associated with the traditional monolithic build projects while allowing us to take advantage of future improvements in server and switch technologies”.
Brick-and-mortar facilities are typically ‘overbuilt’ at great expense to accommodate future projected capacity needs. DCoD, on the other hand, can be built to fit current needs and then scaled as needed, allowing companies to build only what they need, when they need it, while retaining the ability to expand in step with future demand.
Deployment of DCoD is quick and easy — capacity can be added in 14 to 20 weeks, rather than the two to three years it takes to build a typical brick-and-mortar facility. DCoD merely requires access to power, water and ventilation — a process that offers commercial and operational advantages over traditional data centre solutions.
CSC was also drawn to CommScope’s SmartAir Intelligent Cooling System, a flexible and efficient cooling solution that minimises energy consumption. The technology accomplishes this by monitoring over 200 parameters within the DCoD and then determining the most effective way to meet the prescribed operating parameters using outside air and adiabatic (evaporative) cooling. This is especially important in supporting CSC’s HPC requirements.
“CommScope’s super efficiency has trimmed our cooling costs to less than 5% of our IT energy costs — a huge saving from other options, where the number can exceed 60%,” said Partanen.
Finally, as DCoD is purpose built to CSC’s specific needs — and arrives pretested — much of the risks associated with the implementation are removed.
“With a traditional brick-and-mortar approach, you need to account for the complexities associated with construction and bespoke design costs, such as architects and mechanical and electrical design services,” said Partanen. “But with DCoD, you basically buy a system that integrates with an existing infrastructure. You don’t need to be an expert in cooling or power. You can invest your time in developing operationally efficient processes, rather than getting distracted by the minutiae associated with bespoke design and construction.”
CSC deployed its first CommScope DCoD modular data centre in 2012, adding a second at the end of 2014. In fewer than three years, DCoD has delivered significant bottom-line benefits to the organisation, including:
- Power usage effectiveness (PUE) reduction: While the average PUE for a typical data centre varies from 1.8 to 2.9, the DCoD installation at CSC averages 1.03 to 1.06.
- Water savings: One DCoD unit consumed roughly 120 m3 of fresh water in a year — less than the amount used by a typical family house.
- Sustainability: Reduced energy consumption and costs demonstrate CSC’s commitment to leading-edge technologies that reduce its carbon footprint and complement its ecological credentials.
“Our design objectives were met and exceeded by CommScope,” concluded Tuononen.
“As CSC’s compute and data demands continue to rise, we expect DCoD to deliver even better results in the future.”
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