2014: Gratitude and a look ahead

PLG Holiday Logo blog thumbPLG Email HeaderDecember invites reflection on (and gratitude for) the past year’s fortunes, as well as plans for the coming year. 2014 was a great year for Polargy in part because we saw a number of our industry forecasts come to pass:

  • Containment is increasingly viewed by owners as necessary, and a best practice, so sales cycles are accelerating as adoption grows
  • Streamlined containment design and deployment in wholesale and co-location environments allows owners to respond to opportunities quickly and competitively
  • Modular, floor-mounted and quick-build integrated containment solutions are growing in popularity, particularly in new builds with phased occupancy
  • Growing demand for smart and reliable solutions like cold aisle pressure management and automation in legacy environments

During 2014, with a focus on proven customer needs and with eye toward the trends above, Polargy released:

Next year we look forward to introducing even more innovative containment solutions and sharing more thought leadership to help the data center containment market mature.

Until then, we’ll leave you with our sincere Thanks and Best Wishes for the remainder of 2014—and 2015.

Ready made tech specs? Check.

design_blogthumbdesign_specsIn our ongoing effort to support clients and partners with the resources they need to be successful, we’re pleased to announce that updated PolarPlex technical specifications (.docx) have been published on the Polargy website.

You’ll also find links to each of the updated PolarPlex technical specs below.

As our Architect and Engineer clients and partners begin new containment projects we encourage them to take advantage of the many time-saving technical assets we offer. System- and product-level technical specs, product brochures, CAD, BIM and SketchUp design models for industry-leading PolarPlex products are all freely available in the Support section of our website.

Updated System-Level Specifications

Updated Product-Level Specifications

Industry Perspective: N+1 Cooling On Paper Only

frostbyte_fan_tile_blogthumbN+1 redundancy is a system design best practice because equipment failure happens; we expect it and we plan around it. In the case of data center cooling, we expect a CRAC to go down at some point, and with an N+1 system design we have a spare CRAC to fall back on. A major problem with this aggregate view of cooling is risk of starving a cold aisle when changing the CRAC lineup or as a result of CRAC failure, and this risk is amplified with cold aisle containment. Fortunately, we can easily and cost-effectively manage this risk with ‘air-mover’ fan tiles in the cold aisles.

frostbyte_fan_tile_blog_imageTime and time again we hear operators talk about how changing the CRAC lineup causes cooling airflow problems. Most of these comments come from legacy sites, though we’ve also heard them from new data centers. Interestingly, many operators fail to connect the dots between this airflow problem and N+1 redundancy. Many operators have a particular CRAC unit they don’t dare turn off and yet they assume their spare CRAC unit gives them N+1 redundancy. In our experience, about a quarter of small-to-medium data centers suffer from this false assumption; their N+1 redundancy is on paper only.

The Balancing Act

I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard comments like, “We need to keep CRAC Unit #3 on all the time or the room overheats” or “When we take CRAC #6 down for maintenance we get hotspots on the north side.” These problems are indicative of typical airflow behavior in raised floor environments:

  • CFM into an aisle is highly dependent on under floor pressure and obstructions.
  • CFM into an aisle is largely driven by the closest CRAC (the ‘CRAC of Influence’).
  • Changing the CRAC lineup creates large swings in CFM delivered to an aisle.
  • Total air supply may be sufficient but local supply may not (the ‘Distribution Problem’).

With these understandings, one can easily see how a change in the CRAC lineup can cause under floor pressure to change enough to introduce significant risk of an adverse thermal event.

When we think of cooling sufficiency, thermal safety and preventing problems, it’s in terms of normal operating conditions and failure conditions, and both scenarios are highly dynamic. In normal operating conditions we deal with routine changes in cooling demand and supply throughout room while the CRAC lineup remains unchanged. In failure conditions, we deal with a large change in under floor pressure when one CRAC goes offline and a spare unit takes over.

In normal operating conditions, routine changes in airflow demand and supply create risk of falling out of balance and starving a cold aisle. Cooling demand varies at the rack level, aisle level and room level, and can fluctuate either quickly or slowly. For example, a researcher who kicks off a large computational job can quickly heat up one or more racks of number-crunching servers. Or an IT guy swaps a 10kW rack in where a 2kW rack had been, but forgets to mention it to the facilities crew. These changes in demand for cooling create a less obvious change in cooling supply. When cooling demand in one aisle increases, the change in air consumption will affect the supply available to adjacent aisles. Such demand and supply changes during normal operations affect under floor pressure and can result in an aisle with localized low pressure.

In failure conditions, loss of a CRAC unit and replacement with the N+1 redundant unit will cause a change in under floor pressure. Because cooling supply to an aisle is most influenced by the nearest CRAC, and depending on the specifics of the under floor situation, a change in CRACs can result in a low-pressure zone and under-supplied aisles. There may be sufficient cooling supply, but because of the Distribution Problem, there is localized low pressure and even aisle starvation. In this case, even if the N+1 redundant CRAC unit comes online as planned, the best we can say is that the site has only partial redundancy.

Fixing With Fans

Fortunately, achieving true N+1 redundancy and mitigating cooling failure risk we’ve described can easily be achieved with active fan tiles that locally modulate airflow. Raised floor fan tiles, such as the Frost-Byte™ Raised Floor Fan Tile, vary speed to deliver cold air to the aisle based on sensed temperature or pressure differential versus a target setpoint. With several of these “air-mover“ tiles in a contained cold aisle, the right amount of cold air is supplied to mitigate thermal risk from inevitable cooling demand and supply changes during both normal operations and failure conditions.

These active fan tiles are built with a matrix of high performance variable speed DC fans in an aluminum enclosure attached to a standard 60% raised floor tile. Commonly, a temperature sensor mounted on the face of server racks controls the fans. Alternatively, sensors that measure pressure differential between inside and outside the contained cold aisle control the fans. This fan tile architecture auto-balances the cold aisles, eliminating starvation risk and improving thermal safety.

Other Fan Tile Benefits

An alternative solution to balancing cooling demand and supply is simply to over-supply an aisle, but with today’s emphasis on energy efficiency, the days of oversupplying are largely over. In fact, energy efficiency is the major factor driving the adoption of aisle containment, though even with containment, we sometimes still see oversupply due to balancing challenges. With active fan tiles, these remaining oversupply scenarios can be reduced or eliminated, yielding the full efficiency promise of cold aisle containment.

Additionally, by auto-balancing with active fan tiles, operators achieve labor savings from the elimination of routine manual balancing. The days of walking the room and swapping out perforated tiles are over. Active fan tiles eliminate the need to analyze aisles with a balancing hood (aka: flow balometer) to ensure the CFM in the cold aisle more than matches the IT load in that aisle. Likewise, because conditions in the room and aisles are so dynamic, Computation Fluid Dynamics (CFD) analysis for balancing purposes becomes obsolete since CFD provides a historical ‘snapshot’ of airflow that may no longer be relevant.

Lastly, if active fan tiles are powered through a UPS, they can ensure greater uptime if cooling is completely lost. In a catastrophic cooling failure condition, the under floor plenum holds a cool air reservoir, though without air pressure or air flow. Fan tiles running on UPS backup can continue to deliver and circulate cold air from within this chilled plenum. Testing demonstrates that supply air temperature through the fan tiles remained steady for more than 10 minutes even with all CRACs off.

The benefits of auto-balancing and solving the Distribution Problem that active fan tiles provide allow operators to enjoy true N+1 redundancy. Fan tiles offer significant additional benefits in a data center with cold aisle containment: even greater energy savings, local balancing and thermal safety.

Frost-Byte raised floor fan tiles combined with Polargy’s cold aisle containment take data center energy efficiency and thermal safety to the next level.

A little levity from Diane Alber

diane_alber_blogthumbdiane_alberI had the pleasure of meeting perhaps the industry’s only data center comic writer Diane Alber at the AFCOM Data Center World event last week. Diane is the creator and writer of the Kip and Gary Data Center comic and technology blog.

Diane is well qualified to make fun of data centers since by day she is a WESCO/CSC’s Global Account Manager for the Western Region. Combining her industry knowledge, art background, and sense of humor, she hits the nail on the head with her book What Happens In The DATA CENTER… available from Amazon.

kip_comic_bookI particularly liked this comic from Page 24 poking fun at some people’s understanding (or expectations) of Hot Aisle Containment. Just so you know, rubber duckies cost extra.

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PolarPlex Drop-Away Roof Panels are a Clear Winner

cac_1_blogthumbcac_1Our popular PolarPlex Drop-Away roof panels are designed for use under existing data center fire suppression systems that activate at 165 degrees F so they don’t require complicated and expensive changes to your existing fire suppression regime. The PolarPlex Drop-Away panel inserts are also thermally activated, falling out of their frames at 135 degrees F, so in the event of a data center fire, your existing fire suppression system works unimpeded.

Another important containment design consideration is ensuring adequate lighting in the cold aisle. With the introduction of a clear PolarPlex Drop-Away Panel, Polargy addresses this customer requirement in a simple way.

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Our new clear Drop-Away Panels allow 90% of light into the aisle while our Frosted Drop-Away Panels allow 80% of existing light in, which means they don’t require complicated and expensive changes to your data center lighting system.

We will be showing both our Clear and Frosted Drop-Away roof panels at the Data Center World Global Conference 2014 in Las Vegas this week. Stop by the ASM Modular booth# 619 to see a full suite of our PolarPlex containment solutions and even some of our more popular airflow accessories, such as PolarDam Air Dam Foam and PolarFlex 42U Full Rack Blanking Panels.

Phasing is all the rage

And it’s Just in Time.

Last week the Northern California 7×24 Exchange held their Spring event covering the topic of Construction Best Practices. One clear theme that emerged was the need for Flexible, Phased Capacity as new data centers are built out. Several speakers and panelists addressed market trends in outsourcing that drive this need.

Ron Vokoun from JE Dunn Construction, explained several trends in outsourcing and new construction that are driving the need for flexible capacity.

  1. Small businesses are moving IT to co-lo and cloud providers.
  2. Medium businesses are moving IT to co-lo and wholesale providers.
  3. Most new construction is purpose built, Greenfield, and larger in scale, yet with larger shells, initial fit-outs are modest and subsequent fit-outs are delayed until occupancy is closer.

Sam Brown, VP of Engineering and Construction for Server Farm Realty echoed this phasing approach explaining that customers tell them, “We need 500Kw now and over five years we plan to ramp into 2MW.”

fmiPolargy sees this emerging trend of “phasing” reflected in an increasing appetite for our Floor Mounted Infrastructure (FMI) among co-lo and wholesale providers.

Our FMI solution incorporates containment, cable and power trays, and lighting. It is essentially a “modular white space” solution deployed in response to actual demand for capacity. Using a phasing approach, after the shell and raised floor is built out, the remaining infrastructure of containment, power, cable, and lighting can be deployed as needed. This is less constraining to the layout, which may not be fully understood until actual customers come in and their requirements clarify.

Perhaps most importantly for the industry, this “just in time” approach to data center infrastructure goes a long way toward smoothing bumps in the business model many insiders  are anxious about, as I discussed in my previous post about maturation and rationalization. The ability to easily defer and fine-tune capital investment until actual demands are understood will be a competitive advantage for early adopters of phasing.

Because Polargy has deep expertise and experience with precision design and rapid deployment, we anticipate strong demand for our FMI solution that enables easy Phasing, as this new fit-out trend grows into an industry Best Practice.

Selling into Latin America

Latin America is one of the fastest growing data center markets in the world, so the topic “Building Data Centers in Latin America” was perfect for IDG’s 21st Century Data Center Symposium held in Dallas a couple weeks ago.
Based on the conference, I have these recommendations for product latijns-amerikadelivery into the region:
  1. Set expectations based on the specifics the individual country, LatAm is not homogeneous. For example, Chile is strict on paperwork, Guatemala is more relaxed.
  2. Clarify delivery terms. Delivery Duty Paid (DDP) needs to clearly define the shipment hand-off. The difference between the “construction site” and the “staging/off site receiving area” can be weeks—and kilometers—apart.
  3. Value Added Tax (VAT) is complex, get professional help. In some cases it can be recovered, in most cases it needs to be paid in advance.
  4. Business practices vary by country, there’s a large gray area of local expeditors, prepaid contractor fees, etc. Know that going in, do the necessary research.
  5. Duties vary widely with Brazil having the steepest ones. Plan for these in your project costing and make sure duty codes for your products are correct.
brazil-startup4116-620x354Polargy has partnered with Anixter for most of our product deliveries into the LatAm region which allows us to leverage local boots on the ground to handle most of these logistical, tax, and duty issues.
We anticipate continued success in the LatAm region and look forward to sharing more insights as we gain them.

CAPRATE recap: Beauty Day on the Bay

Last week Polargy attended the Third Annual Northern California Data Center Summit hosted by CAPRATE. The event was held in San Francisco at the beautiful St. Francis Yacht Club overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Polargy’s expo table enjoyed this amazing view.IMG_6583

Here are my high level takeaways from the event:

  • The data center industry is entering a maturation/rationalization cycle with many aspects of the industry undergoing rapid change.
  • Data center location near major population centers still matters a lot because of latency & performance requirements and lingering “server hugging” mindsets among senior staff
  • Demand for capacity remains high but prices/revenues are nonetheless under pressure
  • Energy consumption & conservation continue to be big concerns but now we’re beginning to hear more about water consumption & conservation
  • The Northern California market plays by its own rules (as always) with high energy rates, a surplus of demand, heavy regulation and long building schedules
  • Surplus capacity remains rampant with IT commonly operating at 40-50% of capacity
  • Enterprise outsourcing is still very low and represents a huge opportunity

Unlike other large scale industries that have matured and rationalized after 20 years, the data center industry remains fast-paced and dynamic. Not quite chaotic, but lots of moving pieces.

Because of the rapid pace of IT evolution, predicting the future of the industry is becoming both more difficult and more important if you’re an owner or operator. In light of this, the panel discussion I moderated titled Future Proofing Data Centers was certainly timely.

IMG_6599

I very much enjoyed moderating this group of industry experts:

We discussed topics like:

  • What is the expected life of your new data center?
  • What is the technology planning horizon?
  • Colos build a 20 year asset, yet leases run only 3 to 5 years
  • Who is at the table for planning the new data center?
  • What factors impact the use model/capability requirements?
  • How does white space layout need to change over time?
  • How does “modularity” play into getting the most of the 20 year building?

Parting words of wisdom on ‘future proofing’ from my panel:

  • Flexible capacity that allows an operator to respond to market conditions is the key.
  • IT density and power consumption could double in 10 years.
  • Plan to swap out your large assets and build extra floor area to facilitate upgrades.
  • Government regulation is a large unknown that has the potential to change the game.
  • If you’re not designing for environmental constraints like water availability, you should.

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A big thank you to all my panelists for dedicating time to this important topic, and to CAPRATE for organizing this event.

Sealing gaps: We’ve come a long way

Ship bld Caulk 7Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say. In ancient times, boat builders would pack fibers, reeds and pitch into cracks between the planks of their boats to seal water leaks. I invented PolarDam five years ago because data center operators needed a low-cost, simple, flexible and safe method for sealing a wide variety of air gaps to improve cooling efficiency.
Over the years, we’ve enjoyed hearing stories about how operators sealed air gaps prior to using PolarDam, and here are a few of the more entertaining examples:
  1. Software. Yes, software. The data center was once home to countless software packages (CDs, manuals, etc.) for enterprise desktop support. Since all those boxes were just sitting around—and about the right size (5″ x 7″)—facilities managers used them to block off cable openings in empty racks.
  2. Foam peanuts. Inventive? Yes. Fire safe? No. We don’t know the whole story of how they were held in place, but they were called out by the fire marshal as not fire safe, so they had to go. The site manager replaced them with fire safe PolarDam air dam foam.
  3. Cardboard. This is no surprise given its ubiquity except for the obvious fire danger. In haste to achieve energy savings, this operator overlooked the potential to actually accelerate a possible fire by packing kindling throughout his data center.
  4. Rags. This is an odd example because there’s no reason to suspect the data center operator already had quantities of rags on hand, so they must have intentionally purchased a large quantity of new clean rags to plug air gaps. Probably not as bad as cardboard or software but certainly not up to code. PolarDam to the rescue again.
  5. Packing foam. Think about that pink packing foam that protects new-in-box computers and servers. Now imagine you’re supposed to wedge pieces of this rigid foam into air gaps of different shapes and sizes. It sounds like a nightmare, maybe even punishment, but definitely awkward and inefficient. Clearly not “the right tool for the job.”
  6. Wood. Scraps of wood. If I didn’t hear this myself, I’m not sure I would believe it. Is there any good use for wood in the data center? How does one fashion a custom wood block “air dam” on site without multiple cuts and resulting saw dust? If I hadn’t invented PolarDam, I think I’d sooner recommend fiber, reeds and pitch.
DSCN3974 (1)No need to seal air gaps with rubbish or other flammable materials, PolarDam seals your large and small air gaps, no tools required, and it’s fire safe.
Send us your entertaining “stop gap” stories from the days before you used PolarDam air dam foam: marketing@polargy.com

US Patent #8,684,067 goes to SPS

SPS 6

On April 1, 2014, Polargy received approval for our patent application for PolarPlex™ Suspended Panel System (SPS) by the US Patent & Trademark Office.

SPS 4

PolarPlex SPS is a ceiling-suspended aisle containment solution for data centers. It’s designed with an innovative quick-connect channel system that holds SPS panels perfectly straight and secure while also allowing quick and easy removal.

SPS 2

Lightweight ceiling-suspended SPS panels offer functional and aesthetic advantages over vinyl curtains yet are competitively priced. PolarPlex SPS provides better thermal sealing, simpler installation, and a cleaner appearance than curtain containment.

SPS 5

For overhead applications, PolarPlex SPS is rack-independent, supported by the ceiling rather than server cabinets. This design enables cabinets to be moved in and out without affecting the containment system. In containment environments built with our Overhead Prefabricated System or Floor Mounted Infrastructure, full-length SPS panels can fill gaps between racks or completely isolate the aisle during commissioning.

SPS 3

CEO of Polargy, Cary Frame, reports: “PolarPlex SPS has filled a product gap in data center containment for at least the past year and we’re delighted to receive patent approval for this invention. The novel SPS channel design means these panels hang straight and strong for optimal airflow management, but can be installed and removed quickly and easily without tools. PolarPlex SPS has raised the bar on hot- and cold-aisle containment solutions.”

Watch Cary’s video about now-patented SPS.

We also recently announced a major update to its website www.polargy.com which now features CAD, BIM, and SketchUp design files for Polargy containment solutions. These freely downloadable design files help data center architects and engineers quickly evaluate and spec our containment solutions for new construction and retrofit projects.

See further details about SPS here.SPS1