University Breaks All the
Storage Rules"> This single, compressed-air UPS runs the universitys research computing grid system and another campus-wide portal project called Luminous that takes up about four racks of equipment. GSU is getting ready to put Luminous into production, Allen said. The compressed-air UPS, which uses an air turbine, releases compressed air into the server rooms at 55 degrees Fahrenheit, so it actually cools the space while its creating energy to run the system, Allen said."That air is superheatedto 734 degreesso that when it comes out the other end, there is no condensation involved, so its dried. Its cooled at 55 degrees when it comes out the other end. It goes through the turbine, powers the turbine, sends over the AC current, and its converted over to DC by a big conversion boxwhich all UPSes have anywaythen down to the PDUs [plug distribution units], then out to the racks, and it powers your data center." When another project came along, GSU decided to go out and get another 50-kva, 40-kw compressed-air UPS unit to run and protect it, Allen said. "We also have unprotected regular power from the buildingthere is no generator, no UPS. That is basically for test and evaluation stuff and for noncritical projects. So if we lose power, it just kills the box," Allen said. The data center has a full 15 minutes of self-generated power at full load, in case of an emergency. "This means we have time to gracefully shut out our equipment as needed," Allen said. "Knock on wood, in all the time Ive been here, we have never seen a power outage longer than 5 minutes, unless it was self-induced. Then thats a whole different story." GSU is on the same power grid as a local hospitals trauma center, so "were not going to see too many power outages anyway," Allen said. "Our compressed-air UPS gives us 15 minutes in case of an outage, which will get us past most of the standard outages. Our challenge was to get us a full 7-minute window in case of a power outage, so were comfortable with what we now have," Allen said. "If you have a power outage thats much longer than that, weve got a lot more problems anyway." Allen said that the data center, with its self-generated flywheel and compressed-air power sources, is saving a lot of money on the power bill but that its hard to quantify it right now. It is possible that the data center is saving anywhere from 50 to 80 percent on power by using self-generating power supplies. "The problem is, weve never been metered separately," Allen said. "Because were in a building, the whole building is metered. I can tell you that we have reduced our use of power in large measure, but that doesnt give us a dollar figure; it doesnt give us an amount based upon the whole [building]. Wed have to get the electrical guys to study it and come up with some figures for us, and that would take a while to do. "Active Power tells us we should see a significant drop [in power usage] because of how efficient their equipment is, and I believe that," Allen said. "But I dont have any numbers yet to back it up." Green is good This whole green data center setup has been "better than what we ever thought it would be," Allen said. "To us, this is the way we think it should be." Allen said he never dreamed seven years ago when he came on board that the GSU data center would have evolved into what it is today. "When I was hired, they were looking more for organizational and management ability, rather than technical ability," Allen said. "So I came into this job with no pretenses, no preconceived notions about what a network op center should be. I didnt know there were certain things that were sacrilegious. I just blew all the rules and made my own rules as I went, which has really been a lot of fun because Ive been given creative license. Weve tried some things that didnt work and tried a lot of things that did work. Weve had a really great time building this thing." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on enterprise and small business storage hardware and software.
"Its old technology. It uses a small flywheel to keep you going for the 2 or 3 seconds that you need after a power failure happens, until the compressed air turbine takes over and starts running," Allen said.