Sabey Data Centers and McKinstry have jointly announced that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued a patent for Sabey’s new and innovative Mobile Commissioning Assistant.

The new cart-mounted, portable apparatus is designed to replace a costly legacy testing methodology that employs heat-generating load banks and separate fan units to simulate the heat density of a full server load and test the capacity of air-handling systems within a data center.

The device allows data center developers to test both power and airflow in data centers that use hot aisle containment. It provides a real-life commissioning environment in a manner that simple load banks cannot attain.

Invented by John Sasser, Sabey Data Centers’ vice president of operations and built by McKinstry, the Mobile Commissioning Assistant will be produced and marketed under a business agreement with McKinstry. Both companies are based in Seattle. Interested parties may purchase the devices from Sabey’s partner, McKinstry.

John Sabey, president, Sabey Data Centers, said, “Cooling systems in data centers protect against equipment failure and significant revenue loss. Testing the capacity of these systems is a critical final step before the servers go live. But most data center operators rely on unwieldy load bank heaters that don’t simulate actual operating conditions. Our Mobile Commissioning Assistant uses a heating unit, a fan and an adjustable duct output to simulate both the thermal load and the airflow of a fully-operational data center with a hot-aisle containment system.”

“Data center capacity is typically described in terms of kilowatts, or kW. In other words, how many kilowatts of computing load the power systems can support. Electrically this makes sense in a system that has to support a certain number of kW.  Mechanically, however, it's not just the kW that is relevant, but also the airflow, measured in cubic feet/minute (CFM). Traditional load banks don’t adequately test airflow. You may leave a commissioning event thinking the systems work as designed, only to find later that there are airflow deficiencies,” Sasser said.

Each Mobile Commissioning Assistant produces 100kW of heat and pulls about 16,000 cubic feet per minute (CFM) of airflow, putting enough airflow into the room to simulate a 20° temperature differential between inlet (cooled air) temperature to the servers and exhaust air heated by the servers.

“For example, if there is a designed 300,000 CFM in the server room, in addition to supplying the heat, we will pull 300,000 CFM with about 18 Mobile Commissioning Assistant carts and then see if the air handlers can keep up, and the back-up uninterruptable power supply (UPS) units and generators can do what they were designed to do. This represents a much more realistic test and is today part of our standard commissioning process,” Sasser said.

“The Mobile Commissioning Assistant will pay for itself after only three commissioning event uses, compared to renting other commercially available equipment,” said Thomas Tellefson, McKinstry business development director.” It will accurately test the capacity of your cooling systems, thereby preventing catastrophic equipment failure. It will also allow the data center operator to avoid the inconvenience of renting testing equipment that really doesn’t test what the operator actually needs. The Mobile Commissioning Assistant is not only very useful in new construction, but in recommissioning facilities as well.”

“Servers don’t just emit heat. They also create airflow patterns throughout the data center. The Mobile Commissioning Assistant tests the cooling system’s capacity to handle this air pressure.” Tellefson added.