Loudoun Data Centers: Power, Cooling, Security

Loudoun Data Centers: Power, Cooling, Security

During your daily commute, do you ever feel like 70 percent of the traffic on the entire East Coast flows through your neighborhood?

It does.

While there are thousands of Kias and Hondas – and even Teslas and Maseratis – on routes 7 and 28, that statistic was not given about vehicle traffic. That number was thrown out Oct. 26 by Equinix President for the Americas Karl Strohmeyer at the company launch of its DC12 IBX+ data center. He was talking about data, from emails to video streaming to social media to global merchandise retailing – in a word, the cloud.

Amazon is disrupting Wal-mart by technology, and Equinix is right in the center of that

DC12 is the 14th IBX data center in the Washington, D.C. area, including existing nine already in Ashburn. The 57,800 square-foot, $98.5 million building opened Thursday is the first of five planned for that campus alone near where Waxpool Road meets the Loudoun County Parkway.

“Seventy percent of the data traffic on the East Coast flows through this campus,” Strohmeyer said, addressing employees, customers and media. “This campus is the 190th data center on our global platform for Equinix. That is an amazing dynamic.”

DC12 is not just a data center by and for Equinix, it is actually a huge co-location where businesses in the data and interconnection industry can lease, maintain and manage their own server units. The new center already has 1,500 cabinets – basically huge, open cages to allow for airflow to the servers — online with space for 1,500 more. Customers at the event included familiar information and cloud companies such as CDW, NetApp, AT&T, ePlus, CommScope and Datapipe.

During a tour of the facility, it became clear that data centers feed ravenously on three things.

POWER

Companies who provide data handling and interconnectivity for their customers need an unfailingly reliable source of electricity – and a lot of it.

Each cage is supplied with both 240 volts of one-phase power supply and 415 volts of three-phase power supply. In case of a power failure, there are four, 3,000 kilowatt diesel generators on site with a 36-hour supply of fuel. The tour guide said the company has contract with in-state and out-of-state providers to get more if there is an extended power failure.

This provides what is called an N+1 redundant power supply configuration, meaning multiple power supply modules (N) have a backup power supply module (+1) where all modules within the configuration share the load.

COOLING

Think of the servers as eggs, the cages as their cartons and DC12 as a huge grocery store refrigerator to keep those products at a strictly managed level of temperature and humidity.

More than 1 million gallons of water a day — goes straight to Loudoun County data centers for use in their cooling towers

The high-efficiency indirect evaporative cooling units also have N+1 redundancy.

The cooling system can operate in three phases, depending on outside weather conditions, to provide maximum energy efficiency while maintaining the demanding environment.

A tour guide pointed out that humidity is just as important as temperature, as low humidity increases the chance of static discharge while high humidity is wearing on the electronic equipment.

Data centers like DC12 use an incredible amount of water. According to Loudoun Water, the Broad Run Reclamation facility treats 4.5 million gallons of water per day. That water has human impurities removed, but would have to go through the added step and expense of being retreated before it would be ready again for household use. Nearly one quarter — more than 1 million gallons of water a day — goes straight to Loudoun County data centers for use in their cooling towers.

SECURITY

The tour guide pointed to an empty row of cages and pointed out the biometric (hand-scan) security device on each. He pointed out that by the time a person got there, it would be their fifth biometric security check of the day.

In addition, there are closed-circuit cameras operating and being monitored 24/7.

High fences, guard stations, armed guards–all standard.

DATA AND LOUDOUN COUNTY

The Equinix launch roughly coincided with an announcement by the Loudoun County Department of Economic Development of another $1 billion investment in the county.

Vantage Data Centers recently announced the acquisition of 42 acres in Ashburn, with plans for another 1 million-square-foot data center campus.

“Vantage is a premier data center provider and we’re excited that they’ve made such a significant entry into the Loudoun data center market,” said Loudoun Economic Development (LCED) Executive Director Buddy Rizer. “Loudoun remains the largest and most important data center location in the world.”

According to LCED, Loudoun County is home to more than 75 data centers, housing data for more than 3,000 companies within. That adds up to more than 10 million square feet of data center space currently in operation, and another four million being planned or developed.

A rare glimpse inside Equinix

Each year, the industry contributes more than $150 million to the Loudoun County tax base, nearly 10 percent of the county’s operating budget. This has helped defray the costs of infrastructure upgrades like new schools and roads.

While 70 percent of the East Coast traffic flows through Equinix, 70 percent of the world’s traffic flows through the county’s digital infrastructure.

As for Equinix, perhaps the strongest testimony was given by Matthew Douglas, who is not even an Equinix employee. He is the director of cloud and solutions architecture for Smithfield Foods.

“Equinix is everything to us, in everything we are trying to achieve,” Douglas said.

He pointed out that Smithfield used to just think of a pig as bacon. By being interconnected and utilizing new technologies, the company has now expanded into the medical field, including developing skin grafts for burn patients from pork products.

“I have been with Smithfield for four years, and when I got there they bragged that they could still do their business with a pencil,” Douglas said. “They don’t think that way anymore, and I guarantee you that if your company is thinking that way it is going to be disrupted.”

He pointed to the model of Wal-mart, where that company disrupted all the small businesses operating in each town but it now being threatened by companies like Amazon.

“Amazon is disrupting Wal-mart by technology, and Equinix is right in the center of that,” Douglas said. “IT used to be the geeks in the basement. Not anymore. Now, technology and interconnection are vital to operating in the global information economy.”

Joseph Dill
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