NAB lifts lid on Deer Park data centre design

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NAB lifts lid on Deer Park data centre design

How it will run air conditioners for only three months a year.

NAB is using free air cooling, sensors and efficient design to keep air conditioners at its new Deer Park data centre in Melbourne off for up to nine months of the year.

Head of cloud and data centre services, Tim Palmer, told iTnews electricity consumption at the new facility that NAB leases from Digital Realty was already “better than we possibly expected”.

Palmer will present the results of NAB’s recent data centre transformation at the Australian Cloud & Data Centre Strategy Summit on the Gold Coast next month, which is co-organised by iTnews.

Though NAB has previously touted the water and energy efficiency of Deer Park, it has not revealed what design elements it is using to achieve efficiencies beyond “state-of-the-art [free] air cooling”.

Palmer told iTnews Deer Park dispenses with the traditional hot-cold aisle data floor configuration.

Instead, the bank is housing its equipment in racks that are sealed on three sides with a grid-like front door and chimney hood.

Floor vents in front of the rack are opened or closed as and when cool air is needed, and this is determined using temperature sensors fitted to the top, middle and bottom of the rack.

“We only open the air vents right in front of where technology is generating heat,” Palmer said.

“So we’re not bothering to cool areas of the data centre that don’t need to be cooled.”

Palmer said NAB will be able to keep Deer Park’s air conditioners off for about nine months a year – relying entirely on its free air cooling system – representing a huge saving in power costs.

At other times, NAB will only need to run the air conditioners in combination with the free air system.

“In that case, the air conditioning only kicks in when the temperature is above 22 degrees and then it’s only partially mixed with outside air,” he said.

“It’s only when you get above 30-31 degrees that you need to have the air conditioning running fully and we recycle the internal air.

“When you look at how much of the day is above 23 degrees or 30-31 degrees, you’re talking about nine months where you’re just sucking in outside air and just making sure there’s no particulates in it.

“It makes the cooling significantly cheaper.”

Uplift and shift

The bank completed the uplift and migration of workloads and underlying infrastructure from East Melbourne into Deer Park in late October last year, before shutting down the former’s data halls.

It operates another major data centre facility in Victoria – Knox – which it will keep. Deer Park and Knox together run over 90 percent of all NAB workloads.

NAB is now working to consolidate 20 small data rooms around Australia into Deer Park or Knox.

These facilities were mostly acquired, and Palmer is working to determine what of their contents should be upgraded and transitioned into Knox or Deer Park.

Rather than continuing to host everything, Palmer noted some applications may be migrated to cloud services “where it makes good sense”.

Similar build vs buy decisions are being made with new workloads and application deployments.

“We have a decision framework which directs where workloads should go,” Palmer said.

“If something differentiates us – such as the way we digitally interact with customers – then it’s worth us building it and customising code.

“But if it’s a lead request system then you might just want to try to take that as a SaaS offering from a third party where it makes sense.”

Palmer said NAB “fully appreciated” that it would have some form of internal data centre footprint “for quite some time” yet.

The bank’s mainframe systems, heavily customised legacy applications and stores of sensitive data are among the systems that will remain in its own facilities.

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