Lawyer Bait

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Are We Ready To Build a Data Center Around a Cabinet?

I decided to blog about this because a friend of mine pinged me about Elliptical Mobile Solutions who has been receiving a lot of press because they are part of a few finalists' designs for EBay's new data center in Phoenix.

I met Richard Topping and SharylLin Bancroft of Green Data Solutions by literally bumping into them at a data center event in Santa Clara in December last year. I was at CoreSite helping to develop the Cloud Community AKA Cloud Center of Excellence with NASA as a charter member. I was talking to a couple of colleagues and they bumped into me trying to slide between me and another group enjoying cocktails and data center banter.

Needless to say I 'got' what they were trying to do and their solution (the RASER) is compelling. The downside is that it changes the economics for the data center owner operator because the RASERS are high density and self contained. You don't need a chiller plant to run them, just power and a sturdy building with telecom. The issue is that data centers are built with chiller plants, raised floor, air handlers, air conditioners with humidity systems and are designed around traditional cabinets. So back to the question - are we ready to build a data center around the cabinet?

I personally believe that the answer is yes, with some major caveats:

- the owner operator must have access to power and a sturdy building WITHOUT tens of millions invested in 'traditional' cooling infrastructure, raised floor, etc.

- The owner operator must be able to spend CAPEX on the cabinets to the tune of 70-100K each and collect it back over time

The challenges facing the adoption of the RASER (and others like it) are based in these two issues. An owner operator knows that there has been demand for traditional raised floor space, and because there is a mature market for it, it makes a safer bet for the financiers backing the data center build outs and retrofits. Owner operators get their buildings & projects financed building based on watts/SF, ability to cool the floor, and the mechanical & electrical systems to insure uptime. So for an owner operator to walk away from this model is risky - they run the risk of stranding a lot of floor space and equipment by implementing the new RASER cabinets. All this in spite of the efficiency owner operators all claim they are chasing reflected in PUE chest beating.

Now for an owner operator who has a building with ample power and was planning on building out raised floor environments/computer rooms in a traditional sense but has not purchased the infrastructure to operate it, their luck could not be better. Here are the rough numbers:

On a 1,000 cabinet facility they will plan for standard density of 4.8 Kw/cabinet - 4800 Kw or 4.8 MW. At ~3k per Kw all in it costs ~$14.5M for the project. The rent they plan for all in is ~$2,000 per cabinet per month. All in, fully rented it throws of $2M/month. Filled with 36 month term tenants that is $72M/36 mo. term. If the PUE is 1.8 that means for every dollar they spend on electricity 80 cents is added for inefficiencies (overhead). Electricity costs are .8 * 4800 * 730 (hours in a month) = ~$2.8M which is a pass through to larger customers.

Using a RASER deployment of 1,000 cabinets equivalent the numbers look like:

4800 Kw/12 KW/cabinet = 400 cabinets @ $70K = $28M. The PUE on a RASER is 1.2 so the facility saves 60 cents per Kwh of electricity. On 4800 Kw, the lower PUE gives you .6 * 4800* 730 (hours in a month)= $2.1M/month. Over 36 months the savings are ~$72M.

So 14.5M + 100.8M in electricity - ~116M 3 year cost on a traditional facility vs 20M + 25.2M = $45.2M.

Another way to look at it is per sq ft. 4.8MW supporting ~50K ft. At $2500/ft to build or $1800/ft to retrofit for traditional space is ~$125M build or $90M retrofit. With RASERS you need a facility of 15K ft, and retrofit only you're at ~$27M.

So are we ready to build the data center around the cabinet yet?


  1. Mark
    It is so nice to see the ability to use simple math and work the numbers has not been forgotten. You have heard our message and understand it loud and clear. We say if you can forget the traditional way of building things we can save you $100M ON YOUR NEW DATA CENTER BUILD.

    Thank you for your blog I find it extremely insightful and right to the point.

    Justin Bell
    Marketing Director

  2. 16KW per rack, water cooled, with biometrics on each rack?! :-)

    I think this is a great technology and extremely lucrative for cloud build-outs

    Will your everyday / average colo customer adopt this? eh

    -Brandon Peccoralo


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