Easing Federal Data Center Consolidation Using High-Density Pods

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Data Center

Data center consolidation and energy conservation have been part of the marching orders given federal IT executives for some time now, though these goals can present an easier-said-than-done challenge in many environments.

There are no timeouts in Washington – save for the occasional political stalemate – so services must continue uninterrupted as agencies consolidate data centers. Nowhere is this concern more evident than in the receiving data center, where cramming in additional equipment, plumbing and wiring can present an unacceptable risk of service disruption. Using conventional methods, it’s easy to tap out infrastructure capacities, while hot spots and overcooling become threats. Addressing these issues lead to the challenge of funding upgrades.

Taken together at the initial planning level, these complications can make data center consolidation appear impractical if not impossible.

This doesn’t need to be the case, as a time-tested alternative is available: the high-density pod overlay method, which has been used successfully in countless government and commercial settings.

The high-density pod overlay method utilizes self-contained units – mini-data centers, if you will – that include IT cabinets, typically deployed in paired rows, as well as dedicated power and cooling equipment.

While these pods are built with a standardized design that makes them economical and suitable for most any building, they are also readily adaptable to fit the specific needs of any customer. Pods can be used to increase the density and expand the capacity of an existing data center or deployed in a data center that is being built from scratch.

In an existing data center, once an initial pair of pod rows has gained a foothold, a transformation has begun that will steadily produce tangible benefits as the project unfolds. Because the pods are up to 10 times more efficient than the equipment they displace, their deployment will result in the creation of free floor space that can host additional pods or other equipment. That free space can also be devoted to non-IT uses. An additional bonus is that the creation of newly unoccupied space makes the installation of additional pods easier.

As for energy conservation, a data center retrofitted using the pod overlay method can be expected to see an annual PUE of 1.35, a dramatic improvement over the 2.0 PUE of a typical federal data center in its pre-pod state. The pods are also able to maximize a customer’s use of resources by taking advantage of any surplus cooling and power capacity in a receiving data center before tapping into the pod’s own self-contained supplies.

In summary, whether for government or commercial use, the pod overlay method can enable data center consolidation projects that otherwise may appear problematic or impossible. To read case studies and get more details – especially about preparing a data center to be on the receiving end of a consolidation project — check out APC by Schneider Electric white paper number 175, “Preparing the Physical Infrastructure of Receiving Data Centers for Consolidation.”

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  • Matt Caldwell

    10 years ago

    Great post Jay! Not only do pods improve the PUE, the higher rack densities make virtualization and server consolidation possible, further reducing the energy and operations costs in the data center. We are seeing our DoD customers in the SW implementing pods as part of energy savings performance contracts (ESPC) and actually utilizing the cost savings from the data center to help fund other energy conservation measures (ECM) in the facility.

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