A New Kind of Data Center Testing Facility

By David Strom Print this article Print

Wouldn’t it be great to model what you need to do in a data center, before you actually have to bring servers down and remodel? The Strominator visits one that allows you to do just that.

Last week, I wrote about what Sun did to downsize their data center and save a bunch of money. This week, I want to talk about a facility that is a nearby run by Schneider Electric and its American Power Conversion subsidiary.

The place is an oddity for several reasons.

First, it is built like an actual working data center, but with one key difference: There is literally nothing inside it.

Instead, the mostly empty building has lots of HVAC equipment, electrical power, and plenty of monitoring and modeling tools. The idea is to have a facility dedicated to practical solutions, which APC customers can try out various scenarios.

Schneider built its data center, which it calls its Electric Technology Center, to serve as a test bed for its customers, to show IT managers what they need to do to reconfigure their own data centers as they have evolved from mainframe-centric to house more distributed systems. It is a great idea and overdue.

As IT shops outgrow their data center infrastructures, they want to be able to figure out the power and cooling issues and how companies can retool their data centers appropriately.

If you run a data center, chances are you have some pretty old equipment that you’d like to replace but literally don’t have the energy to do it. Your raised floors are probably filled with outdated cabling that is so thick you have lost much of the airflow capacity and cooling ducts.

Your air conditioning is on overload because it was never designed to cool racks of gear, and the temperature varies greatly from one aisle to another as a result. Your backup generators and power conditioning equipment is probably not matched to the gear it is backing up, and you have no idea of what should be upgraded first.

Wouldn’t it be great to model what you need to do, before you actually have to bring servers down and remodel?

That is the essence of the idea behind what Schneider is trying to do with its new testing facility, located outside of St. Louis. Think of it as one big playroom (more than 100,000 square feet) where you can bring in gear and move it around and test various situations before you have to deploy it in your own shop.

Some companies are fortunate and able to rebuild or relocate their entire data center, something that I got to witness first-hand when the data center at the end of my block was rebuilt last year.

This article was originally published on 2008-03-24
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