A new data center came to life recently on Delta Dental of Michigan’s property in Okemos, MI. The new 22,500 square foot data center will house hundreds of computer servers and the technology needed to keep them operating without interruption.
In fact, the new data center is one of only 10 in the world to have earned a Tier 3 rating for its design from the Uptime Institute and is on track to set the new standard for electrical power handling.
“We should never have to power down the data center,” said data center manager Christian Briggs. If they do, Briggs added, it’s because something so catastrophic occurred that it wiped out several levels of redundancy.
Delta Dental of Michigan, with its affiliates in Indiana, Kentucky, New Mexico, Ohio, and Tennessee, is one of the largest dental plan administrators in the nation. In 2008, the enterprise paid out more than $2.1 billion for dental care for more than 6.6 million enrollees. (Delta Dental of Michigan provides coverage to employees of BNP Media, the publisher of Mission Critical.)
Claims processing, email systems, document storage, records retention, and online activities for enrollees, groups, providers, employees, and the public are all handled at the company’s new data center.
“We’ve put a design in place to accommodate technology needs for at least the next 10 years plus we built in capabilities for expansion as needed,” said Brenda Laird, senior vice president and chief information officer for Delta Dental of Michigan. “This significant investment serves and protects our company and customers while showing our commitment to supporting the economic future of mid-Michigan.”
The Uptime Institute Tier system evaluates data centers based on their ability to remain up and running regardless of power failures, natural disasters, or other potential power-robbing catastrophes.
While designing Delta Dental’s new data center, ensuring electrical power was always available to keep the servers running was a key factor. The Tier 3 design rating means that maintenance tasks, such as testing breakers, can be performed while the data center is still up and running, a concept known as concurrent maintainability. To meet the Tier 3 requirements, Delta Dental added a second set of paralleling switch gear into its electrical system. Paralleling switch gear provides clean power by helping to get the generator output in sync before feeding power to the computers. Delta Dental collaborated with the generator manufacturer and ASCO, the manufacturer of the automatic transfer switch gear, to devise an industry-first system for automatic failover between the two paralleling switch gear.
“Delta Dental has a one-of-a-kind emergency power distribution system,” said Nathan Cronenwett, an electrical engineer with ThermalTech Engineering, a mechanical, electrical, and plumbing consulting engineering firm that helped commission the new data center. “This type of design is superior to those with no emergency redundancy or those that require twice the number of generators to accomplish the same level of reliability.”