Slogging through the numbers

Slogging through the numbers

I have several stacks of paper in front of me.

In one stack is a series of documents that we are using to do an analysis of the current and potential building electrical load we have today. One document is one we create every month called our power audit. We use it to track circuit loads and to make sure our customers are within the safe zone of their circuits. It also gives us a comparison between actual usage and demand availability. A very important measurement – electrical demands vary as server loads change, so sometimes a usage figure at 8 am might be considerably different at noon or midnight. We need to ensure that we can support the full load. Another set of documents is analysis drawn from our dual UPS units, tracking their utilization. Yet another set of documents in this stack is a tracking of our DTE bills over the past 12-18 months. And the last piece of the puzzle in this stack is a roster of our customers and the layout of their circuits against the PDUs and distribution systems in the data room.

The second stack has been prepared to look at several projections of load expansion in data room A and a guesstimate of what the power usage might be in the new data room at varying room sizes and occupancy rates. And we use the term guesstimate loosely. The lightning like speed of technology changes coupled with the structural changes that businesses large and small are making in the economy today make it a challenge for us to predict the future. As a commercial facility, we don’t control what goes in – we are customer driven so we have to establish an infrastructure that gives us the ability to be flexible enough to keep up with our customers. So, we created a number of “what if” scenarios — what if our customer mix changed to be more storage oriented; what if we attracted more higher bandwidth customers with less electrical demand; what if we were to see more customers with smaller rack sizes vs. fewer customers with larger number of racks.

And the third stack generated by our engineering and design consultants, Integrated Design Solutions (IDS), is a combination of alternative approaches to our expansion and build out including 7 site plans and associated budgets for architectural build out, electrical system and environmental systems build-out and upgrades. The budgets themselves each have multiple layers of detail on each plan, so yes, we could keep our printers busy for a while if we printed everything off.

The team from IDS did a terrific job putting these various plans into dimensional drawings that clearly communicate differing visions of what Liberty could become. A few of the ideas were completely out of the box and challenged our thinking on how we were defining the spaces within the building.

And with all this material at our disposal and with the staggering amount of data and the equally staggering amount of choices, dare I use a three letter word to describe the task at hand?


Yes, this is the fun part. Considering the future. Anticipating customer needs. Planning a path forward that couples sustainable design, redundant system architecture, flexible delivery and expansion at a cost structure that can be supported by an underlying business structure. And throughout the process, ensure the continuing of services to our existing customers through the entire expansion process.

One interesting concept that surfaced several times through our research is the idea of hot aisle containment. We are using cold aisle containment today to increase air flow to the front of our racks and improve our cooling efficiency. But we’ve also seen some use of hot aisle containment where the aisles in the backs of the servers are closed off with exhaust systems. Temperatures in the hot aisle can rise to 100 degrees, but it is exhausted and actually increases the total efficiency of the room. Here’s an interesting webinar on the topic:

We’d like to hear from you if you have experienced any data rooms or facilities with hot aisle containment systems and if you have any feedback on them. Thanks for your participation!

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