The value of the new Schneider Electric Technology Center can be seen in the changing displays on the PowerLogic monitoring system mounted on the wall of the new facility in O’Fallon, Missouri. Engineers from APC-MGE first turn on a set of computer room air conditioning (CRAC) units to cool a module of racks. They then activate in-row cooling systems to cool a similar setup, allowing an instant comparison of perimeter cooling and in-row cooling technologies in a controlled environment. The gauges show that in this scenario, the in-row units used a fraction of the power.
Providing instant feedback on dueling approaches to power problems is one goal of the 100,000 square foot facility, which is designed as a testbed for Schneider and its customers and industry partners to design efficient approaches to power and cooling. The data center is equipped with the latest power efficiency technology and sturdy infrastructure to run high-density installations that have been problematic in legacy data centers.
“This will be a facility dedicated to practical solutions, not hype,” said Aaron Davis, chief marketing officer of APC-MGE, the U.S. unit of European power conglomerate Schneider Electric, which acquired APC for $6.1 billion last year. “We’re not making this investment saying APC has all the answers and solutions. We’re welcoming the community to come in and benefit from this investment.”
The Green Grid is one of the groups taking Schneider up on its invitation. Members of the group’s board were on hand Tuesday at a grand opening tour of the facility, which is designed to accommodate traditional customer testing but can also simulate extreme heat and cold environments.
“The data center market is very risk-averse,” said Don Lipton, the founder of SprayCool and one of the Green Grid board members in attendance. “You’ve got to have test centers and pilot projects so people can calculate the effectiveness and cost of new approaches.”
“There’s no data center manager I know that will allow us to experiment in their data center in real-time,” said John Pflueger, Technology Strategist for Dell and Green Grid board member. “That’s the sort of stuff were can do here. We can do what-ifs and identify different trends and approaches.”
The O’Fallon facility is wired for 7.5 megawatts of power, with two 1.75 megawatt chillers and cooling towers providing 2.1 megawatts of heat rejection, according to APC-MGE. The data center includes 11,000 square feet of working raised floor space for customer testing and equipment demos, as well as a 9,000 square foot area with dual air chambers to create test environments ranging from 50 degrees to 110 degrees. It currently has one 2 megawatt generator, with space for two more.
Customers can lease time in the center to test-drive designs and equipment, which APC officials said would typically cost from $5,000 up to $100,000, depending upon the nature of the testing.
Laurent Vernerey, president and chief executive of APC-MGE, said the O’Fallon data center’s purpose evolved as the company got feedback from customers grappling with cooling challenges. “This facility started as a way for us to have a cooling lab to try to test out problems,” he said. “It has turned into an opportunity to help our industry meet its moral imperative.”
“A lot of people write white papers, but they don’t always take that knowledge and say ‘do it’,” said Rob Johnson VP for North America for APC-MGE. “This is putting those systems together with parts that are already out there. We don’t have to wait until tomorrow for that 30, 40 or 50 percent improvement. We can do it now.”