Victory Technology Center (VTC) of Buffalo, New York, was initially designed as a dedicated data center to support Catholic Health, western New York’s second-largest multi-hospital health care system. The design firm MDC Solutions was brought on to retrofit a recently closed hospital into a data center to meet the healthcare system’s rising technology demands.
“At the time, traditional forced air was the mainstay of data center cooling,” said Mike DiGiore, president of MDC Solutions. “So, the first suite was designed using these methods.”
With this traditional design, came the traditional obstacles of ductwork, raised floors, humidity control, and a host of other maintenance issues.
With the completion of Phase I, DiGiore recognized the potential of the remaining space. The new center had nearly 36,000 square feet remaining, including office space. This large amount of unused space meant huge profit potential if refitted as a colocation facility for Catholic Health.
“We basically had a blank canvas to work with,” DiGiore said. “So, with Phase II construction, we were determined to improve the second suite design to optimize the new colocation space and profitability.”
Enter the OptiCool Solution
“At the time of Phase I construction, OptiCool Technologies’ refrigerant-based cooling system had not yet been perfected,” said James Pluta, director of facilities for Victory Technology Center.
“Luckily, by the time of the Phase II design, the planets essentially aligned for us,” added DiGiore.
With the availability of OptiCool’s cooling solution, construction of the new colocation footprint centered around the innovative new design that offers close-coupled cooling at the heat source, providing a wealth of advantages, including energy usage reduction by up to 90%.
What makes the OptiCool system so efficient is R-134a, a nontoxic, synthetic refrigerant. R-134a has superb thermodynamic properties, which make it an ideal medium for moving heat. The system uses a refrigerant distribution unit (RDU) that has a small, electric motor coupled to an impeller. The impeller circulates the liquid R-134a through the refrigerant distribution network (RDN). The RDN is a series of small-diameter copper pipes that extend over the cabinets. From the RDN, the refrigerant flows through flexible stainless-steel hoses that connect to active heat extractors (AHX). AHXs are mounted on the rear doors of each cabinet.
The AHX units are essentially small heat exchangers with fans. Up to three AHX units can be installed in a single cabinet. The AHX fans pull hot air from the servers through the units. The heat is absorbed into the R-134a liquid, which “flashes” into gas via a phase change. The heated gas flows through an RDN return pipe to the heat exchanger in the RDU. The refrigerant condenses into a liquid state and is pumped back to the cabinets to repeat the process. The RDU requires only 1.5 hp per 250 kW of cooling, which is about the same power needed to run a residential sump pump.
“The OptiCool solution is far superior to any that I’ve ever encountered,” Pluta said. “Our service techs are saying ‘this can’t be that simple!’ and yet it truly is.”
From a single cabinet in a shared colocation environment to a dedicated hard-walled suite, VTC is dedicated to offering custom solutions to their clients.
“The OptiCool solution has become a major component in doing just that,” said DiGiore. “When clients enter the new suite where the OptiCool Solution is deployed, they think of Star Wars, they think of the future. They see the white doors and cabinets, the superior use of floor and overhead space — they basically see a model of design and efficiency”.
OptiCool’s patented Cool Door system attaches directly to any third-party rack, supporting a variety of heat loads and redundancy configurations.
“Hot aisle containment, humidity issues and condensation, high-pressure and low-pressure zones — these issues are all solved,” said Pluta.
The average life span of a typical CRAC unit is 15 years. VTC is currently in their 10th year.
“We anticipate retrofitting suite one to OptiCool in about five years” said DiGiore. “The future of data center cooling is here today and, with great confidence, we have put our future in the hands of OptiCool.”