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Colo building data center in a former shopping mall

Lifeline Data Centers, a colocation company based in Indianapolis, is taking an old shopping mall property and turning it into a data center facility. The Eastgate Mall, which has been closed since 2004, has become an eyesore in the city.

Lifeline will spend about $23 million to transform the property to make it more appealing and bring in tax money for the city. The first phase will turn into 60,000 square feet of data center space in a spot where Wasson's – an old department store – and a Burlington Coat Factory once stood. The company then plans to build four 100,000-square-foot data centers on the south and east sides of the property.

Reworking a shopping mall site into a data center isn't easy. Though the construction of the building's foundation is solid, a food court doesn't take as much power as thousands of servers, and so Lifeline had to rework the power infrastructure.

On the cooling side, Lifeline is taking a novel approach by building its own air handlers at about half the cost of buying them off the shelf. Most of the work is already done, with one customer already testing equipment there. Co-owner Alex Carroll said Lifeline expects to have about 12 customers up and running by August.

Check out this 6-minute video on how Lifeline is transforming a shopping mall into a data center.

Read the full transcript from this video below: Colo building data center in a former shopping mall

Interviewee: . . . we do so much ourselves and manufacture things ourselves. We do all the engineering internally for the electrical and the cooling. We don't use any outside contractors for, "how do you put this thing together?" We're able to pick up efficiencies that nobody else is able to, generally, see.

Every bit of original electrical service in this mall came out and new ones were going in. Indianapolis Power and Light Dayton - we put a whole different feed into the data center, kind of a SONET ring effect for the dual path on the power. That's what we did. We just completely re-did it.

What we do is we asked of Square D to custom engineer this cap and [inaudible 01:08]. What they did is they came off of here. Off of this breaker and they broke the bus into four different 800 amp units. Okay? We went from one 3,000 amp, now we've got four 800 amp power buses. You'll notice that there are four independent, automatic transfer switches for the generator signal. They are self-contained all by themselves.

Now I showed you the breaker...and we're building our own air [inaudible 01:54] that are especially designed for the data center industry. Interestingly enough, when you buy a Leebird or a data air or something like that, while they're very often used in the data center world. They're engineered to be multi-purpose off the manufacturer's floor.

What they do is, they say, "This unit will be used in this range of applications." They manufacture it to meet all of those specifications. What that does for the data center world, generally, is are over-amped, and then they're not efficient.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Interviewee: What we're doing is we're building our [inaudible 02:51], and we're going to have...the difference between this location and our current location, we'll be almost 60% less power on our HVAC system.

Interviewer: Okay.

Interviewee: This is the fan assembly. Now, what Levert will do is, Levert will put about...this is a 20 ton unit. Levert will put anywhere from a seven and a half horse to a 15 horsepower motor in a 20 ton unit. These are two, one horsepower motors.

You can see, right away, the efficiency in the power consumption. What it comes down to is, it's really a pretty simple formula. You've got a 20 ton coil. You need about 400 CFM per ton. Two times four. You need about 8,000 CFM, cubic feet per minute of air passing through that foil to get the maximum amount of heat transferred.

These are both about 6,000 CFM fans. We'll have about 12,000 CFM. What that extra 4,000's for is the static pressure that builds up. You know, the drag on that air coming through. The extra CFM will compensate that.

Interviewer: Oh, okay.

Interviewee: It's still much more efficient. You can always turn one fan off and operate with one, if you don't have to run it quite as high.

We'll set one of those little 10 ton units right here and we'll blow cool air that way across the cages and we'll have another 10 ton unit on the other side blowing this way. We'll take the return duct and swoop it out back towards the back of the cage. It'll naturally pull the hot air out the back.

Interviewer: Oh, okay.

Interviewee: You'll get a hot air cool down effect.

Interviewer: The duct work that comes from the top of the unit, will it just go to the end of the row there?

Interviewee: It will only go to the end of the row and then what we do after that is, let's say three racks down I have a hot cabinet. We'll take a piece of flex duct and go from this duct work. We'll take a piece of flex duct and go right over the top of that and put a little hood there and just put a little extra suck right there above that cap.

The city has been very good to work with. They're happy about it in that it's going to take shape again. Frankly, from their perspective, it's going to take shape and be something they can collect taxes off of. They're very happy about that.

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