Monday, July 23, 2012

Project Ginger

In the heat of the desert sun there’s a very special facility being raised in Chandler, Arizona. It’s our latest massively modular CyrusOne datacenter, nicknamed “Ginger”, and it promises to be the most highly efficient and most innovative colocation facility in the state of Arizona, if not the entire Southwest. During my last visit to the site I was struck by the magnitude of the effort we’re undertaking there. We are building a HUGE facility unlike anything in the datacenter industry today on top of what was once 60 acres of alfalfa and hay, where flocks of sheep were grazing only a few months ago.  The crews of men and women are hard at work making this a reality in some tremendously challenging conditions. I was onsite during the recent heat wave that affected the entire country, and as I pulled up to the construction trailer my rental car thermometer registered a toasty 126 degrees outside. In the words of present-day philosopher Paris Hilton –“that’s hot!”. The construction crews start the day in the wee hours of the morning and usually knock off by about 1 or 2pm to avoid the worst of the heat. A tip of my construction helmet to them – they’re out there every day making our vision a reality in conditions that most of us would find intolerable.

“But it’s a dry heat”

So some of you are wondering how a datacenter can be located in the desert and still claim impressive efficiency numbers. The bottom line is that the dry environment in Chandler is a great fit for our indirect evaporative cooling (IDEC) technology. Initial studies are telling us that we’ll be on full economizer (full evaporative cooling) mode for a significant percentage of the year and on partial economizer for the remainder of the year. That means dramatically lower PUE numbers, less environmental impact, and ultimately lower cost for our customers. Winner, winner, chicken dinner for everyone.

the roof, the roof, the roof is on fire!

We’ve sweated the design details on every aspect of this project, including the roof. It’s an innovative marvel in itself. It is peaked at the perimeter with a valley through the center spine, exactly the opposite of every other roof you’ve seen. This roof shape allows for the natural convection of hot return air from across the mission critical space back to the perimeter of the building where cooling units are installed. At the same time, the center valley collects rainwater and routes it away from the building to catch basins where it is reused for site cooling and landscaping needs.

Size matters

We decided to take a more innovative approach in the overall site layout as well. Instead of a single traditional rectilinear warehouse design we have specifically sized several separate structures to precisely match the performance of the cooling units mounted to the perimeter of the facilities. The steel trusses over the individual data halls have been engineered and sized to support the entire span without the need for intermediate support columns. This means that the full interior of the building is open for customer installations, free from the encumbrances and clearances required by the support columns in most large structures.  In other words, it’s all tasty electrical and mechanical infrastructure on the outside, and all chocolaty compute and storage goodness on the inside.

Ginger or Mary Ann?

Why Project Ginger? The C1 design/construction team are all Gilligan’s Island fans (who isn't?), and we were sitting around discussing how the front structure was going to be an awesome Class A office building and the rear building was going to be the business end of things. That quickly devolved into the age-old dilemma that all red-blooded baby-boomer boys have faced – Ginger or MaryAnn? It was determined that the very sleek and sexy administration building would be nicknamed Ginger, and the mission critical facility in the back would henceforth be referred to Mary Ann. Many other comparisons emerged over a team happy hour, but those are left to the reader's imagination. Bottom line is that Project Ginger is like a reverse mullet - all party in the front, all business in the back.

And don’t think we’ve left out Mrs. Howell – she’s the C1 construction trailer.

Here’s a conceptual design video of Project Ginger. It pretty accurately reflects what you will see in just a few short months. Check it out and let me know what you think.

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