Why Google Needs to Peep at the World's Most Efficient Data Center

114. That's how many HP EcoPOD server systems it would take to power all of Google.

The problem with traditional, brick-and-mortar data centers is that they require a huge up-front investment of both time and money; they're often under-utilized; and generally cost more money and energy in terms of overhead than actual computing. All horribly inefficient, even if you don't take into account that they cost more than $15 million a year to operate on average. Modular Data Centers, on the other hand, address many of these issues with increased efficiency via smaller footprints, faster deployment, better scalability (since you're only paying for the capacity you currently need, you can add and reduce capacity more easily) and lower operating costs than their brink-and-mortar brethren.

The HP Performance Optimized Data Center 240a, more commonly known as the HP EcoPOD, is the King Kong of Mobile Data Centers—if they were the height of Scrappy Doo. It provides an extremely energy-efficient, high-performance server center with a higher power density, lower operating cost, faster deployment time and a footprint 1/10th the size of the traditional data center.

First, the EcoPOD can be up and running within 12 weeks from the time of the order—up to 88 percent faster than the average 24-month lead times of traditional centers. The entire system is modular—including integrated power, cooling, security, fire suppression, management, and monitoring suites—and it all comes pre-assembled and pretested to the customer's specs directly from the factory. Much like a pre-fab home, it's built via assembly line, which decreases production time.

Built from two, 40-foot shipping containers, the EcoPOD measures just over 45 feet long, 23 feet wide, nearly 21 feet tall, and weighs 425,000 pounds. However, within this minimal space, you can cram as many as 44 industry-standard, 50-server racks—each weighing 3,500 pounds—for a total of 2,200 servers with more than 7,000 server nodes. It can also support up to 24,000 large form factor hard drives. The EcoPOD uses dual, flywheel-based power sources—known as the CleanSource UPS, created by Active Power in Texas and valued at nearly $2 million—that combine for a maximum total of 2.3MW.

They produce average rack power densities of around 44kW and as much as 69kW under the right conditions—versus traditional centers that produce roughly 6 to 8 kW per 42U rack. And because it's so much smaller than a traditional server farm and completely integrated within itself, it requires significantly less site prep and fewer external safety systems.

To keep all this equipment from overheating and melting itself, the EcoPOD employs an advanced cooling system—Adaptive Cooling—that automatically adjusts between three ventilation modes: Free air that uses ambient air pumped in from outside whenever possible, Direct Expansion (DX) assisted (part ambient air, part A/C), or Full DX, based on the server load and environmental conditions. In Direct Expansion systems, the evaporator coil sits in direct contact with the air flow and also acts as the cooling coil. With either mode, more than 3800 cubic feet of air circulate past the servers every minute.

What's more, the EcoPOD boasts an absolutely insane PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) of between 1.05 to 1.3, depending on the server load and which cooling system is active. A data center's PUE measures how much of the electricity it uses actually goes toward computing, rather than cooling or monitoring. Ideally, a center's PUE should be 1.0—all the energy the center consumes goes towards the computers (PUE=total power/IT power). Normally, a Brick-and-Mortar data center averages about 2.4—double that of the EcoPOD! Altogether, the EcoPOD server system costs a paltry $500,000 a year to operate—31 times less than a similarly powered traditional data center.

[HP (.pdf) - HP (.pdf) - Marc Hamilton - DataCenterKnowledge - Trane - The Register]

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