A Vapor Edge Module at a cell tower (a rendering) Vapor IO
A Vapor Edge Module at a cell tower (a rendering)

Vapor IO Intros New Efficient Cooling Design for Edge Data Centers

Free-cooling design by BasX doesn’t rely on outside air or evaporative cooling

Since its inception, Vapor IO has developed an innovative design for its micro data centers for edge computing, from packing a lot of IT equipment into a small space and deploying a unique physical security system to installing sensors that manage temperature and collect other metrics in real-time. Today it unveiled another cool innovation.

The Austin-based startup, which is building an edge data center colocation business, has partnered with cooling vendor BasX Solutions to provide its edge sites with a highly efficient and more environmentally friendly cooling system that requires minimal on-site management and maintenance – an important factor in deploying a network of edge data centers.

Redmond, Oregon-based BasX has designed a free-cooling system that chills the inside of a Vapor data center using recirculated air without requiring outside air or water-wasting evaporative cooling – both common approaches to improving data center energy efficiency, said Vapor chief marketing officer Matt Trifiro.

The new cooling design is in keeping with edge environment requirements. Vapor plans to install hundreds to thousands of edge data centers over time, and many will be deployed in rugged hard-to-reach locations, with no on-site water supply, he said.

Vapor’s data centers won’t have on-site staff and will need to be reliable and easy to maintain. With BasX’s cooling system, the company will not have to regularly replace air filters or deal with water filtration, Trifiro said. 

“We want to be in a dusty, harsh environment [without] having that extra maintenance aspect to the facility,” he said.

Vapor is building the colocation business by installing multi-tenant micro data centers next to cell towers owned by its investor Crown Castle, making them available for lease.

In the coming years, applications such as streaming video, cloud services, self-driving vehicles, and augmented and virtual reality are expected to drive huge demand for edge computing, which ensures high performance by placing computing power and data storage closer to end users.

Vapor uses centralized management and orchestration software to connect multiple micro data centers in each city or region, so they can run as a single, redundant virtual data center.

The startup’s individual micro data centers, called Vapor Edge Modules, feature a cutting-edge design. Each data center, enclosed in something similar to a shipping container, features six high-density IT racks inside a cylindrical pod called Vapor Chamber, which can support up to 150kW of IT power.

The equipment sits behind four layers of access-control security. Every rack for example is subdivided into four sections, each with its own lockable door. The Vapor Chamber sits on a motorized turntable, and when tenants authenticate themselves to access their IT equipment, the chamber rotates and provides technicians access only to their own racks through a small opening.

The new cooling system, which operates in a closed loop, is the latest design innovation. The cooling technology has built-in sensors that work with Vapor’s sensors to track system and cooling needs and automatically adjusts settings as needed, said Matt Tobolski, BasX’s president and co-founder.

“The system has a lot of logic built in to determine, ‘Do I need to speed up or slow down? Can I turn the fan on, or can I increase the flow through this pump?’” he explained. “The system runs at its most efficient point at every spot during the day.”

BasX’s cooling system includes a built-in chiller too in case it’s needed. It keeps the chiller off and runs in “free” mode for as long as it can sufficiently cool the data center, Trifiro says.

“Both options are always available, though the system works to maximize the hours in ‘free’ mode, because that's a lot more energy efficient,” he said. “The software on board the Vapor Edge Module continually evaluates the sensors and determines whether free cooling is sufficient or if it needs to add some chiller assistance to reach the desired set point.”

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