If the Borg had a data center, it might look a lot like the large, cube-shaped building in Roubaix, France. It’s the new data center for French hosting company OVH, which plans to assimilate more than 35,000 servers into its new facility, which has been built in a cube shape.
While many industrial buildings are built in this manner, the OVH Roubaix 4 data center comes with a difference: the servers are housed in an exterior corridor built around an open center, allowing for easy airflow through the facility. OVH joins a growing number of companies that are optimizing their data center facilities for free cooling – the use of outside air to reduce the reliance on air conditioning systems.
The Building as Air Handler
The OVH Roubaix facility treats the cube shaped building as an air handler. Outside air enters the facility through louvers in the exterior wall. The air travels through the racks of servers, and then exits the IT corridor via large fans behind the racks, which vent the air outside into the open center.
The design of the Roubaix 4 facility is an extension of how OVH approaches its hosting business, which now houses more than 100,000 servers in four facilities. The company designs and builds its own servers, which use water cooling at the board level.
The Roubaix 4 cooling system is the culmination of years of research and development, according to OVH. “The aim for our teams was to achieve greater stability, while respecting the environment,” the company said. “Power-hungry air conditioning has been replaced by a ventilation system, together with water cooling at the server level.”
“Due to its unreliability, air conditioning did not guarantee service quality,” says Lionel Deny, the Chief Operating Engineer for OVH. “Ventilation offers more flexibility and adapts to operating conditions. Performance is optimal and the environmental impact is limited.” The company does not publish a PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) , but describes its energy usage in terms that suggest a PUE of about 1.1
The OVH data center team describes their design goals in this video, which provides an overview of the building. The interviews are in French, with English subtitles.