Is Apple’s Data Center Using a ‘Unique’ Design?

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Is Apple using custom enclosures and “unique” airflow and cable management in its North Carolina data center? We can’t say for certain, but it sure looks that way based on an announcement today from several data center industry equipment vendors.

Instor and Electrorack said they have completed a project providing tailor-made enclosures for an unnamed client at a large data center in North Carolina. The vendors said the units were “built specifically to address the owner’s precise and unique requirements concerning airflow, cable management and equipment mounting.”

Instor and Electrorack wouldn’t comment on the identity of their client. They were hired by Holder Construction, whose many data center projects include Apple’s 500,000 square foot iDataCenter in Maiden, North Carolina. While Instor and Electrorack aren’t talking, the project description suggests a massive facility.

Changing the Playing Field

“This data center has truly changed the playing field in terms of size, efficiency, and engineering, and we were thrilled to have the opportunity to bring our expertise to the table to make it a reality,” said Todd Schneider, Senior Product Manager at Electrorack.  “Outfitting a landmark data center on this scale while adhering to highly-aggressive implementation schedules – and producing one-off solutions – was achievable only through Electrorack’s unique, innovative design and manufacturing processes. It’s what separates us from other enclosure manufacturers.”

Electrorack makes enclosures and cooling products for the data center industry, and recently became a unit of Legrand, North America.

Instor provides data center infrastructure solutions and partners with manufacturers who make products for the data center, including intelligent power distribution and monitoring, environmental monitoring, asset management, KVM, and custom server enclosures.

Micro Changes in a Macro Environment

“We chose Electrorack chiefly for their ability to make design changes within a large-scale project to address specific needs on a timely basis,” said Bob Hancock, President of Instor Solutions.  “There were times when changes to specific racks had to be made to accommodate certain third-party systems, and Electrorack was able to make micro changes in a macro-production environment that resulted in an uninterrupted delivery schedule.”

“The current trend in large-scale data center deployment is for the owners to control the design and configuration of the enclosures versus making trade-offs with off-the-shelf cabinets,” commented Scott Shew, Electrorack’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “We saw this trend coming years ago, and positioned Electrorack to rapidly manufacture tailor-made enclosures while remaining competitive within today’s economic environment. Our collaborative process ensures that the resulting designs protect data centers from obsolescence while positioning them to address thermal, power, and space issues.”

Apple has had little to say about its data center project, leaving tech news sites and Apple enthusiasts to parse local news stories, job posts and product announcements for hints about the facility’s design and how Apple might use it. See the Apple Data Center FAQ for a summary of what’s known, as well as a few of the more interesting theories.

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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