A Stroll Around Capgemini's 'Green Data Center of the Future'

A Stroll Around Capgemini's 'Green Data Center of the Future'

There is no longer any need to build data centers from the ground up, they can be manufactured in a factory and dropped directly into a site, according to global consultancy Capgemini.

The firm appears to have proof, boldly claiming to have created the most sustainable data center in the world down in Swindon, where the climate is apparently optimal for the fresh-air cooling system it has implemented.

The Merlin data center was designed to be the most sustainable and efficient storage facility with the key goals being to reduce power, water and emissions, explained Paul Anderson, programme director of outsourcing services at Capgemini UK.

Using the modularity approach, Capgemini has ensured that its data center is re-useable. The modules used to house data were originally designed as field hospitals and are fully mobile as well as being 95 percent recyclable.

Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) is the official measure used to determine how efficiently a data center uses its power. Ideally, all data centers should have a PUE of one, meaning that the power running the IT should be equal to the power running the entire facility. However, in practice this is impossible.

The industry average is 2.6, with the best practice generally regarded as 1.3. Microsoft and Yahoo have achieved 1.2, while the one million square foot Google E facility touts a 1.12 rating.

Merlin has beaten them all, with a PUE rating of 1.1, according to Capgemini.

Anderson even acknowledged that PUE ratings can be manipulated to make a data center look efficient without taking into account the environmental damage that may be caused in generating a low PUE rating. Capgemini's Swindon facility is the most sustainable in the world based on all other aspects, not just its PUE, he said.

Capgemini's Merlin facility uses 50 percent of the power and 30 percent less water than traditional data centers. For every 232KW of IT load being used in a module, 8KW of energy is used to cool it, according to Capgemini.

The Merlin center will be certified as a Tier 3 data center, making it only the third of this kind in Europe.

"Going green is viewed to be expensive. We wanted to prove that you could get a sustainably run data center at the lowest price to offer to clients out of the ones we have in the UK," said Anderson.

"data centers are eating power exponentially at the moment. The data center industry is not using as much carbon as the aviation industry yet but we're likely to go above them when cloud computing takes off as it is far more energy intensive."

Anderson stated that in the future, the modules could be taken to the clients and stored at their sites. This could be perfect for a number of organisations such as the MOD, which has its own secure facilities and other organisations that can re-use old buildings in which to store their data.

Future data centers will probably require their own power generators to be built next to them because the National Grid will not be able to cope with demand, according to Capgemini, and the firm is already looking at a number of options including biofuel.

V3.co.uk was invited to take a tour of Capgemini's Merlin data center in Swindon, touted as the most sustainable data center in the world and due to open on 12 October.

The data center uses a modular approach to storing data, which offers flexibility and increased efficiency while maintaining high levels of security, according to the firm.

Merlin HQ

Capgemini utilised an existing 10,000 sq/ft warehouse that was previously owned by Honda, eliminating construction costs and lowering the embedded carbon footprint.

The data center is under high security, with CCTV and alarmed fences around the perimeter, infrared grids, biometric access cards and anti-vehicle barriers outside the entrance that can withstand the impact of an articulated lorry travelling at speeds of up to 30mph.

Merlin module

Inside the warehouse, there are a number of mobile buildings or "modules" which are each a data warehouse within their own right. They can be re-assembled, making them high flexible.

Four Merlin modules

There are currently four modules, each 2,500 sq/ft in size. The warehouse is capable of storing 12 modules on the floor space. But each module can accommodate another on top, so this increases capacity to 24 when the roof is removed.

Merlin servers

Data is stored inside the modules, with customers able to buy rack space or request their own module to house data.

Merlin BMS

The servers within the modules are cooled using a fresh-air cooling system, controlled by a building management system. The data center uses 50 percent less power than traditional facilities, according to Capgemini.

Merlin power

One of these resilient electrical infrastructures is designed to run four modules. At present there is one, with others to be added when required.

Khidr Suleman writes for V3.co.uk, as well as BusinessGreen.com. This article appeared on BusinessGreen.com and is reprinted with permission.