Inertech and Skanska’s Mission Critical Center of Excellence have announced that their eOPTI-TRAX data center cooling technology, notable for its ultra-low “mechanical PUE rating,” is fast-tracked for an energy patent.
The eOPTI-TRAX technology foregoes the use of traditional “chillers,” which blow cool air upward through a raised floor. Instead, the Inertech/Skanska technology pumps a standard refrigerant through pipes directly into the servers themselves, cooling them. The company claims that by using the refrigerant instead of water, data center operators can achieve a savings of between 80 percent and 97 percent in standard building and power production cooling. Company executives claim the eOPTI-TRAX solution requires 0.3 watts to cool a single server, as opposed to 90 watts using chillers.
Lee Kirby, vice president of strategic operations at Skanska, said the technology is only currently deployed at a single customer: a site owned by Telus, in Quebec. However, he added, more customers are in talks to incorporate the technology: “Most, if not all of the major banks we’ve spoken with are very excited, based on what their requirements are.”
The eOPTI-TRAX technology’s claim to fame is a “mechanical” Power Utilization Effectiveness rating of 1.012, far higher than the 1.4 to 1.6 used by other solutions. The University of Maryland’s Department of Mechanical Engineering confirmed the reading, which reportedly leads the industry. (“Mechanical PUE” includes the inefficiencies in powering and cooling equipment, not the power lost through the power distribution system.)
“Leveraging Intertech’s technology, Skanska’s design has been able to reduce our data center Total Cost of Ownership by 40 percent,” Lloyd Switzer, director of network transformation at TELUS, the first large commercial customer to deploy the eOPTI-TRAX system, wrote in a statement. “At the same time, we are closer than ever before to achieving our goals of environmental stewardship.”
According to Kirby, the eOPTI-TRAX technology may be built out in a modular fashion, in increments of 250 kW. The costs, however, are on par with a normal data center: between about $9 million and $11 million per megawatt. Because the technology uses a refrigerant to cool the racks—and not air—the eOPTI-TRAX technology should work just as well within multiple environments: hot, dry, humid, or cold.
eOPTi-TRAX certainly provides an alternative to traditional chiller methods, one that might make a bit more sense in for deployments such as the geographical “safe zone” near Las Vegas, Nev. That area might be seismically inactive, and far away from the hurricanes and other potential natural disasters of the Midwest and South, but the desert climate forces data center operators to cool the air they blow over their servers, if they choose to go that route. Of course, Facebook and other companies have chosen to place data centers in locations like Lulea, Sweden, where the local climate is advantageous to cooling.