Data Center Design and Efficiency – Yahoo’s Lockport Facility

Scott Noteboom, Yahoo!’s global head of data center operation, recently pointed out similarities between Henry Ford’s Ford Motor Company’s manufacturing revolution and the revolution of design and construction of modern data centers. He pointed out how slow and inefficient car production was before the invention of the assembly line, and it compares to the process of data center construction only a few years ago. Just like the evolution of car manufacturing, Noteboom and his team at Yahoo! says that the design and construction of data centers is also evolving into a efficient fast paced design, build and operate system. With their new data center in Lockport, New York, the team has cut down the usual build to operate time by six months for their 9MW phase one and projected to stay within the originally allocated 150 million dollars while also setting the bar for energy efficiency amongst all data centers in the US.

Resourcing wind trends at the site of the data center and considering the position of the building, the facility utilizes the natural wind current to keep the data center cool, significantly cutting down needs to use their evaporative cooling system. “We only require this evaporative cooling on average 200 hours a year,” Noteboom says. “The rest of the year we don’t have any kind of [mechanical] cooling.” Enclosed hot aisles inside the data center are designed to mix the hot rising air traveling into the mixing plenums with outside air while expelling unwanted hot air. With no air handlers, a few fans used to direct air flow and server fans are used to draw the cooler outside air into the facility.

Opening in September of 2010, the 155,000 sq ft first phase of the Lockport facility includes an administrative building and multiple data center halls. With inspiration from chicken coops and steal manufacturing plants (which deal with high heat densities and are designed to draw in large amounts of outside air) the facility’s 9MW critical load deliverance has an annualized average Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of 1.08. This can also be attributed to the increasingly popular evaporative cooling system and the redesign of server humidity and temperature windows within the Lockport Facility.

All in all, there is a very good reason why Lockport is being called Yahoo’s 5th generation data center. With studies done to improve server breathing by increasing window size and creating a generous PUE by understanding that typical data centers have about 300 percent more fans than required, it only solidifies Yahoo’s commitment to decrease their 2009 emissions by 40 percent by 2014 and demonstrates a part of what is in store for the future in data center design.

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