Gila River data center completed with designs by SGJJR and i2
Like every large organization, the Gila River Indian Community is growing more and more dependent on its information systems. But unlike many, they are determined to keep local control of their own data, privacy and security.
Thus the community has just finished construction of a new 7,000 square-foot Tier III data center, based on an analysis and designs by SmithGroupJJR and i2.
The data center will provide centralized servers and storage for the community’s government, police, and fire departments.
“The Gila River people see this center as a driver of economic growth, as well as means of enhancing their security and independence,” says Tim Johnson, Principal and Senior Designer at i2. “The computing power available in this new facility represents a great step forward for the entire community.”
The new Gila River data center reflects an important trend driving the IT industry: it puts a remarkable amount of computing power into a remarkably small piece of real estate.
Its 500 square-foot data hall includes just 16 cabinets installed in an A/B configuration, with the remaining area devoted to AC utility feeds, battery backup, a generator plant, HVAC, fire protection and security. Still, with today’s virtualization techniques, each 8 kW cabinet can support up to 600 virtual servers, for up to 4,800 virtual machines on the A side, each with a backup on the B side of the aisle.
In addition, the facility includes space for a second 16-cabinet data hall plus expanded electrical and mechanical systems, so the community can double its capacity as their needs grow over a 25-year projected life. Should their needs expand farther, there’s room to the south to enlarge the building.
With all of this computing power in a such a small physical space, the design challenges included the creation of a large enough and fast enough cable backbone plus enough electrical power and cooling to keep the servers running reliably.
The center’s successful opening was due to close collaboration between Johnson, who designed the IT and data infrastructure, and John Abed of SmithGroupJJR, who led the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing design teams.
IT and mechanical
Johnson says his biggest design concern was the ability of the infrastructure to meet the future demands of the client, given the fast-changing nature of technology. “We felt a 10-gigabit cable plant would be more than adequate on day one, but we have the ability to upgrade to 40 and then 100 gigabits when the client is ready.”
Abed adds that, in order to meet the Tier III requirements, “We have two sources of power from the local utility, N+1 UPS and generator plants, N+1 chill water and air distribution, plus redundant fiber optic cabling and redundant servers.” There’s clean-agent fire protection, and a physical security system with advanced access control, motion sensing and camera surveillance systems.
The cooling system is straightforward. Chilled air enters the data hall from louvers in the west wall, is drawn into the cabinets by internal fans, exhausted into the ceiling plenum through chimneys in the top of each cabinet, then recirculated back to the cooling coil. “We have three air cooling chillers with space for two more; and two generators with space for a third; so we’re ready for that second data hall without expanding our footprint,” Abed explains.
PlanNet Design & Construction served as the general contractor, with Aspen Technologies handling the IT integration, Aspen Electrical the electrical installation, and TDI Industries the plumbing and HVAC.
Johnson says he has worked extensively with Abed for more than eight years, and the pair have completed several data center designs and buildings.
It was a facility they designed together for the nearby Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community that led directly to this project. “The Gila River IT people have toured that facility, and the Salt River people highly recommended us,” he explains.
Johnson has been actively involved throughout the project, performing construction administration and compliance testing duties.
Now, after two years of design and construction, the Gila River IT group is installing the core network, servers and storage network. Johnson says he expects the data center to be operational by August 1.