Kiwis open hydro-powered, free-cooled data centre

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Kiwis open hydro-powered, free-cooled data centre

Offer per-kWh pricing.

A new Christchurch data centre and co-location facility launched by New Zealand Prime Minister John Key hopes to attract regional SME customers with a mix of open access policies and flexible power arrangements.

Expected to be fully operational in a month's time, The Colocation Company has already attracted customers such as Telecom New Zealand, TelstraClear and Christchurch City Council's Enable fibre-to-the-premises provider.

The Colocation Company is owned mainly by Christchurch and South Island ISP Snap Internet, and took a year to build, says Mark Petrie, director of the network provider.

Multiple diverse-path fibre-optic networks in the building provide high-speed data access to the outside world, Petrie said.

The Colocation Company data centre fits 224 server racks at present in a floor area of 800 square metres expandable to 1,300 square metres. These server racks are housed in fourteen self-contained "micro climate pods" that are kept at 22 degrees celsius. The facility can expand to 704 racks.

According to Petrie, the racks are cooled with piped water, using two 500kW chiller units.

Petrie says no power is required to cool the rassk for ten months of the year using chilled water and outside, provided the outside temperature stays below 18 degrees.

On average, each rack consumes five kilowatts or power.

The Colocation Company draws two megawatts of power capacity from two sub-stations using hydro to generate the electricity, says Snap Internet CEO Jamie Cairns.

Mains power is backed up by Caterpillar diesel generators, with 1MW capacity in total once the data centre is ready.

The facility is capable of both peak lopping, during which the data centre feeds electricity back to the mains grid to the operator, and power islanding, during which the facility takes itself off the grid completely, Petrie said.

The data centre can generate power itself when - for instance - the spot price on the wholesale electricity market goes above the cost of generating it locally, Petrie said.

In times of grid emergencies during very high demand times, The Colocation Company has a commercial arrangement with energy utility Orion to sell power to the generator. This includes the power used by the data centre as well.

An ASCO switch balances power phases allowing The Colocation Company to switch the generator in from the mains without any outage.

Petrie says his company is looking into using bio-diesel for the generators, and also putting solar panels on the roof of the facility for supplemental power. The power arrangement "is great as it means we're running the generators often - which we need to do anyway for testing - but they're being properly utilised instead of just sitting there in test mode," Petrie said.

New Zealand enacted an Emissions Trading Scheme in 2008, which is partly coming into effect this year with a transitional phase ending 2012 and which will be fully implemented by all sectors of the economy by 2015.

Petrie and Cairns claim the new facility is fully ETS-ready and in keeping with the sustainability leitmotif, colo customers are charged in an unusual way.

Traditionally, data centre customers pay for the amount of space they use, but at The Colocation Centre, they are charged NZ$0.69 (A$0.56) per kilowatt-hour.

This, Cairns and Petrie say, encourages customers to invest in new, energy-efficient equipment. Overall, energy efficiency forms a bit part of the sales pitch to customers - the company claims its new data centre delivers up to a third lower user costs thanks to its power-saving design.

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