The Planet aims for top data center efficiency ratings

Data center hosting company the Planet has aimed for a data center power usage effectiveness (PUE) rating of 1.3 at its new Dallas-based data center.

The Planet is getting back into the data center colocation business, starting with an 86,000-square-foot facility in Dallas that officials estimate will have a power usage effectiveness (PUE) of 1.3.

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The Uptime Institute says data centers' average PUE is 2.5, and so aiming for 1.3 is aiming high, even for a big data center hosting company like the Planet. About 40,000 square feet of the facility will be data center floor space, which the company plans to build out as demand dictates in 12,000-square-foot sections called "pods" as demand dictates. CEO Doug Erwin said that by May, the data center should be up and running.

"We want to capitalize on the colo opportunity in Dallas," Erwin said. "A lot of customers are asking for more colo, including a lot of our prospects."

The PUE number of 1.3 – which compares the amount of power a facility uses compared to the IT equipment inside – is low, though not unprecedented. At its container-based data center in Chicago, Microsoft said it can provide a PUE of 1.22. Google said its facilities average a 1.21 PUE, with one facility reaching a 1.13.

Nonetheless, achieving such a low PUE number is difficult. Jeff Lowenberg, the Planet's data center manager, said all facility equipment such as air conditioners will be outside the data center space in an equipment galley. The Planet will use chiller plants from Turbine Air Systems out of Houston. Lowenberg said Turbine has guaranteed a high level of efficiency on the units.

Because it will be a colo facility, Lowenberg has little say about the racks and IT equipment; that's the customer's prerogative. But the ceiling above the hot aisles will have open ceiling tiles, and the air handlers in the equipment galley – six 100-ton units – will draw the hot air through the open ceiling tiles and through the ceiling.

"It's the only place the hot air can go," he said. "You get hot air going up naturally, and the air handlers have to suck air from somewhere, so they pull it through the grates."

Estimating a 1.3 PUE
Advertising a 1.3 PUE for a data center that doesn't yet exist may seem far fetched, but Lowenberg has his ways. For one, he has a guarantee from Turbine Air Systems on how much power the chillers will use to create a ton of cooling. Then he estimates how much tonnage he'll need to cool the data center. He also factors in the power infrastructure, including the N+1 design of the uninterruptible power supply (UPS) units. From there he does some calculations and comes up with the estimate.

Lowenberg also said that once the data center is up and running, they'll start taking measurements and will be happy to share them. He is confident that his math is right.

"Once we get the data center to 30% to 35% capacity, we'll start to see those 1.3 numbers," he said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Mark Fontecchio, News Writer. You can also check out our Data Center Facilities Pro blog.

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