Tuesday, August 19, 2014
"Data Dome" offers architectural answer to data center challenges
Mankind has benefited from the structural benefits of circular buildings since the Ancient Romans systematically implemented the arch. Oregon Health and Science University's followed design cues from the Old World when designing their new data center and were rewarded with increased performance. OHSU's success in building and operating a circular facility demonstrate possible solutions to some of the most common problems in data facility design.
Health-driven data needsOregon Health and Science University performs groundbreaking research in the fields of genetics and developing cures for fatal diseases. As a result, the university's need for data storage and solutions for analyzing that data are immense. The answer to this need was Data Dome, an 18,000-square-foot data center constructed within a geodesic dome, according to the university website.
The facility takes advantage of 10 pod mini centers configured in a wheel and spoke architecture that maximizes the physical capacity of a circular building. Data Dome boasts ten times the capacity of OHSU's primary data center, offering 100 petabytes of dedicated storage with plenty of space to host thousands of servers.
Benefits of the circle
Data Dome's circular architecture does more than allow OHSU to maximize physical space in data center design. Cooling efficiency is a major bonus to circular data centers. Data Center Knowledge reports that OHSU is able to turn the entire facility into a functional cold aisle by directing airflow in a circular direction. Hot air naturally rises to the top of the ceiling-less building and escapes to the exterior of the facility, eliminating the need for air ducts and chillers. A back up evaporative cooling system helps to maintain facility temperatures when natural cooling is insufficient. This configuration will allow Data Dome to cut power use in half compared to similarly sized data centers.
The circular architecture of Data Dome also provides the facility with increased protection from seismic activity, notes the Portland Business Journal. The stability provided by a curved construction protects hardware in the face of earthquakes or tremors that would pose a greater threat to traditionally designed data centers. Data Dome was designed in part as a contingency plan for dealing with earthquake activity. The circular facility will be tasked with hosting OHSU's entire network in case of an emergency, allowing administrators and researchers to access data by way of remote console server solutions. Likewise, the dome-shaped top is designed to shed natural debris that would collect on top of a flat rooftop, such as volcanic debris or snow.
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