A Tale of Two Data Centers

May 11 2014, 12:12pm CDT | by

Data centers are assuming a great importance for the storage of personal and commercial content.  These data centers contain many racks of servers, networking and storage equipment that generate a lot of heat and consume a lot of power.  Data centers (and IT in general) are said to consume up to 10% percentage of the total power used worldwide and as these data warehouses grow, so does their power consumption.  I recently had a chance to visit a couple of modern data centers.

In April 2014 I visited the Switch SUPERNAP Tier 4 data center in Las Vegas, thanks to Quantum Inc. during the NAB show.  Later in the month I visited an Equinix facility in San Jose.    These facilities are used for co-location and processing of major corporate data.  Among the clients being served in these data centers were auction companies, major media companies and telecommunications companies.

The SuperNAP 8 in Las Vegas is a 300,00 square foot, multi-tenant data center with a Tier IV Constructed Facility certification, the highest rating for mission-critical reliability from the Uptime Institute.  The facility is built using pre-fabricated modular components made by Switch. Rob Roy, Switch founder has patented many design innovations in this data center, many of them focused on managing heat generated by the equipment in the facility.

During the NAB show in April Quantum demonstrated a StorNext-based 4K collaborative workflow across a data center and a remote private cloud, leveraging its Lattus object storage system, Levels Beyond’s Reach Engine, Telestream’s Vantage and Adobe Anywhere.  The demonstration included ingest, transcoding and proxy generation, with the SUPERNAP facility in Las Vegas serving as the cloud.

The Equinix SV5 IBX data center in South San Jose is one of 6 large co-location facilities provided for companies working in the Silicon Valley.  This facility is right next to one of the world’s largest internet exchanges and peering points.  The Silicon Valley facilities serve over 450 customers in a total of 448, 500 square feet. The facilities provide connections to more than 140 network service providers.

The racks of equipment in these facilities contained both old and new equipment from every possible equipment vendor and undoubtedly running some of the most advanced software in the world.  Despite the enormous heat generated, in one case, I was told that a couple of rows of racks consumed 1 Megawatt of power, the room temperature was cool and steady.  The management of heat is a major issue in data centers.  If the air handling is shut off in a facility of this size the temperature rise would be rapid and cause much damage to the equipment.

Controlling the generation and managing the flow of heat is a crucial consideration in the choice of hardware, including storage hardware.  Power consumption must often be traded off against performance and this leads to a wide choice of storage options in these data centers to trade off power use vs. needed performance.  Not every company makes the same choices and a large colocation data center like the SuperNAP and the Equinix colocation facilities are an interesting chance to see the different sort of optimizations that various businesses may make.


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