Cisco’s data center deluge [video]

The networking vendor continues data center ramp ups in Texas, North Carolina.

Earlier this month, Cisco made news with its new data center in Research Triangle Park, N.C. The interesting bit about that facility is Cisco designed it for double duty – it will support application development and also disaster recovery (DR) for its production data centers in Texas.

Cisco also says the new center is highly efficient, with a Power Usage Efficiency measure at 1.4, compared to 1.34 at the company's Allen, Texas, facility and 1.9 in Richardson, Texas, the two data centers the new North Carolina facility will initially back up.

I decided to look into the Allen, Texas data center since it is so darn efficient, and discovered this great video tour on youtube that was just posted last week. Check it out below.

The Allen, Texas facility, which opened this spring, leverages the vendor’s entire data center technology portfolio: computing, switching, and data storage access. It supports the company’s internal private cloud and also delivers IT as a service to customers. It’s got quite a few interesting green features. Leveraging a unified network fabric that unites storage and data traffic has reduced the number of switches, adapters and cabling required, which Cisco says has also reduced power usage. The company says it has saved more than $1 million on cabling in this facility. Fewer cables have also increased air circulation so the equipment runs cooler and more efficiently.

Interestingly, there is no raised floor. Also, there’s no “hard” ceiling, which the company says also improves airflow. The server racks have chimneys that take out the hot, 120 degrees Farhenheit air which naturally rises. Fresh, cooler air falls, and fans pull the air into the racks.

An energy-efficient air-side economizer design that leverages fresh air (when the outside temperature is low enough) cools the facility, cutting the need for mechanical chilling. Cisco estimates it will be able to use filtered, outside un-chilled air 65 percent of the time, saving the company an expected $600,000 per year in cooling costs. The air is pulled into an enclosed outdoor space, as is the hot, used air from inside the facility, and all that air hits contaminant detectors and temperature monitors. Louvers that have paper filters cleanse the air, and if necessary, chillers are used to pull heat out. The air is also conditioned by dehumidifiers, and from there the air is moved into the air handler room. At capacity, the systems involved can push out 96,000 cubic meters of air per hour.

The data center’s condenser system leverages a Dolphin WaterCare system that treats and purifies the water pulled out by encapsulating any bacteria in the water and essentially starving it. Cisco then uses the treated water for the plants and landscaping around the facility. There is also a lagoon that captures rainwater to irrigate the indigenous, drought-resistant landscape plants.

There are more interesting tidbits. Instead of hundreds of environmentally challenging batteries which are often used in older data centers, the uninterruptable power supply (UPS) room in the 5 megawatt data center (expandable to 10 megawatt) uses rotary flywheels, which require little energy to continue in motion and start the diesel generators in case of power loss. There are RFID tags used to automatically identify and track all the equipment, down to the blade level. The building was designed to withstand tornado winds up to 175 mph (a smart design in tornado-prone Texas), and there are solar cells on the roof generating 100 kilowatts of power for the office spaces in the building.

The Allen, Texas data center is paired with the Richardson, Texas facility to form what Cisco calls a Metro Virtual Data Center (MVDC). Together, the Active/Active data centers form a virtualized, dynamic IT services cloud, also serving as backup sites for one another. This enables both data centers to run real-time critical applications, such as WebEx, simultaneously in both places for world-class business resiliency.

As for the new facility in Research Triangle Park, it houses up to 5,000 blades and 125,000 virtual machines in 438 racks. Like the Allen, Texas facility, all cabling and other conduits and services are on overhead rails so there’s no need for a raised floor.

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