Vapor IO Shows Off Data Center Design for Network Edge

The startup is promising that its Vapor Chamber and run-time platform will be more efficient than traditional data center models.

Vapor IO data center

Vapor IO officials believe they can build a better data center.

The startup came out of stealth mode this week with a data center design that moves away from the traditional hot aisle-cold aisle model found in traditional facilities, and is part of a larger push in the industry to move more of the data processing and analytics out of the centralized data center and closer to the network edge, where data is being generated and consumed.

It's a data center designed to drive down capital and operational costs, improve the power efficiency and fit into smaller spaces than the massive facilities run by major Web-scale companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon, according to Vapor IO founder and CEO Cole Crawford. Business of all sizes are migrating to workload-optimized, cloud-based environments.

"So now, when you're talking about the software-defined data center, you can really talk about the data center," Crawford, who also is co-founder of the OpenStack open-source cloud orchestration technology and is involved in the Open Compute Project (OCP), told eWEEK.

The company made its debut at the OCP's Summit in San Jose, Calif., March 10.

Traditional centralized data centers—with their large racks of servers and other systems, cooling appliances and raised floors—are expensive to build and run and are not designed for the new style of IT that is growing up around the cloud, open-source applications that call for interoperability, integration and portability, and highly distributed and edge-based computing brought on by the rise of mobile computing and upcoming Internet of things (IoT) technologies, he said.

Businesses need infrastructures that are more optimized for current workloads, offer industry-standard interfaces, and can be located based on customer needs and desires.

Vapor IO is rolling out what officials are calling "hyper-collapsed" data center systems that are designed to put more compute capabilities in smaller spaces and with significantly greater power efficiencies than traditional facilities, and designed for cloud environments closer to the network edge. The Vapor Chamber is based on a design put forth by the OCP—which was launched by Facebook in 2011 as a way to fuel innovative and energy-efficient data center systems—that is cylindrical. Each chamber is 9 feet in diameter and can hold six 42U (73.5-inch) racks that draw 150 kW of power.

The chamber also holds power supplies, cooling capabilities, backup batteries and other components that tend to take up space in traditional data centers. On the inside of the cylinder is the device that removes the hot air generated by the rack systems and brings in the cool air.

The Vapor Chamber is not designed to run in huge data centers, but instead in smaller facilities in urban areas closer to the network edge, Crawford said. On its Website, Vapor IO notes that 36 Vapor Chambers can fit into the same space as 120 racks in a traditional hot aisle-cold aisle data center. In addition, the power usage effectiveness (PUE)—a standard for measuring the energy efficiency of a data center—is better, Crawford said. In traditional data centers, the average PUE is 1.9. (The best rating is a PUE of 1.0).

"We're looking to go to 1.1," he said.

In addition to Vapor Chamber, the company also unveiled its Open Data Center Runtime Environment (Open DCRE), an open-source infrastructure management and analytics platform that Vapor IO is contributing to the OCP. Open DCRE includes sensors, controller board and firmware that tracks such metrics as PUE, humidity, airflow, temperature and other environmental data. The information can be used by the system to automatically decide where a workload should run, taking the human element out of the equation, Crawford said.

People "are not very good at managing upgrades and outages," so the Open DCRE puts the decision with the workload itself, he said.

At the same time, the company launched its Core Operating Runtime Environment (CORE), which can be used by open-design systems or with traditional IT equipment, according to company officials.