Rackspace, Digital Realty’s U.K Data Center Design: Free Air Cooling

Rackspace and Digital Realty Trust recently partnered to construct a new U.K data center that leverages a sustainable design and innovative outside air cooling system.

In late February, Rackspace and Digital Realty Trust announced a joint partnership for the completion of a new U.K. data center in Crawley, West Sussex. The firms launched construction on the 130,000 square foot facility, which sits on a 15-acre campus that will eventually house four data centers. In total, the site’s infrastructure will support up to 10 megawatts of critical power load.

Currently, Rackspace and Digital Realty are working to establish the first two data halls, which will include 6 megawatts of capacity. These structures will include cabling routed overhead instead of within the floor space, as is customary in traditional data center builds. This phase of the project is scheduled for completion in early 2015.

A Highly Sustainable Design: Indirect Outside Air Cooling 
The two companies have come together to leverage both group’s expertise in designing a highly scalable and efficient facility with a sharp focus on data center sustainability. In addition to incorporating space for future expansion to address subsequent client demands, the data center design also includes an innovative cooling system.

Rackspace and Digital Realty’s facility will be the first U.K data center to utilize an advanced indirect outside air cooling system. The technology allows for reduced reliance on certain mechanical cooling and leverages outside air to remove excess heat in the server room. Thanks to this new design, the data center will also see reduced energy consumption, as much as 80 percent less than traditional structures.

The free air cooling design was inspired by a system used by British infrastructure company Excool, which utilizes outside air to reduce warmth created by heat exchanger coils, The Register reported. Besides considerable reductions to electricity usage and operating costs, the indirect cooling technology also effectively separates the outdoor and indoor environments, eliminating the need for an external filtering system in the data center.

“For a large part of the year that [air cooling] process is sufficient,” said Gary Boyd, Rackspace data center project engineering senior director. “At certain times of the year when it gets warmer we spray additional water onto the face of the heating system. There’s a lot less complexity – it’s a very simple cooling process.”

By leveraging the innovative cooling technology in conjunction with hot and cold aisle separation, the new U.K. data center is expected to achieve a PUE rating near 1.17. This is a considerable reduction from Rackspace’s flagship data center in Slough. The smaller, 50,000 square foot facility has a 1.55 PUE.

European Data Center Market
Rackspace COO Mark Roenig stated that the new U.K data center campus comes in response to growing demands in the overall market, alongside growth opportunities in Europe’s business sector. A Digital Realty study echoes these findings, showing that of the 201 participants polled, 65 percent had built a new facility in Europe between 2011 and early 2013.

The study also found that 88 percent of respondents had plans to further expand their data center service footprint. The U.K was the top country in which new data center construction would take place, with 37 percent preferring the region for facility construction.