How digital transformation is helping SCC drive sustainability

In 2018, SCC initiated a long-term project to look at sustainability and energy efficiency gains that were being made possible by the widespread shift to digital transformation. With the growing popularity of cloud computing and as a leader in delivering hybrid cloud solutions, it was clear to SCC that the requirement for more power in the data centre presented an opportunity for new, innovative ways of becoming more sustainable, and is proactively investing in doing right by the environment. SCC has continued to invest in its data centre services to become a distributed cloud provider supporting a number of clients across the UK in both the public and commercial sectors. SCC acquired its newest data centre, in Fareham, in 2014: a modern Tier 3+ carrier-neutral data centre containing 100,000 square feet of space and a mix of corporate and service provider colocation customers.

Identifying opportunities for efficiency gains

SCC identified Fareham as the best option for efficiency gains and return on investment due to the design of the data centre. Fareham was built around a higher density, additional power load, and designed with cold aisle-containment already in place. When SCC acquired its Fareham data centre, the CRAC units, cooling units, and chillers were all being maintained by Airedale and the two organisations quickly established a good, collaborative relationship. Airedale is a world leader in the design and manufacturer of innovative, high efficiency thermal management solutions. Airedale provides complete cooling solutions that encompass precision air conditioning, IT cooling systems, chillers, condensers/dry coolers, and air handling units. Laurence Hamer, Head of UK Data Centre Services at SCC, said: “Airedale gave us real confidence that, by proactively looking at ways of enhancing a complete system, they could help us understand the best fit for our data centres and work with our on-site team to define and quickly achieve our objectives around efficiency whilst supporting longer term sustainability.

Partnering with Airedale

SCC selected Airedale as its strategic partner for the first major project in its data centres, supporting SCC’s journey to better efficiency whilst also increasing its own knowledge base and skillset. This includes members of SCC’s team completing professional qualifications in sustainability and energy efficiency and SCC increasing its partnerships, combining accredited internal expertise with suppliers like Airedale that are knowledgeable around efficiency and sustainability. Laurence said: “We wanted to kick-start an ongoing programme of work – not just a one-off project. This is very much the first step on a journey to greater sustainability right across our data centre operations. At SCC we talk about the ‘three Rs of sustainability’ – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle – and we absolutely want to build on that message in the data centre world by reducing the amount of energy that we’re using and ensure we consider sustainability in our day-to-day on-site activities.We’ve already revised our generator testing program, which is reducing our fuel consumption and our overall carbon footprint. We’re reviewing the effectiveness of firmware enhancements to improve the efficiencies of our UPS systems and the potential for installation of new and additional Solar PV Arrays to support our energy needs. Where appropriate we reuse key high-quality infrastructure and ensure repurposing and reuse of components is considered within the data centre, further improving the utilisation of existing core resources and minimising waste.The first significant piece of work in partnership with Airedale was initiated and managed by Ross Pollock, our Fareham Data Centre Manager, who while working on other projects with Airedale’s team at the Data Centre could see that there were further opportunities for efficiencies. Ross’s input and local knowledge of the site’s challenges was key to achieving efficiencies. Airedale picked up the baton and came back with a view that the ACIS Control System could be implemented at the data centre to great effect.

The technical bit

SCC and Airedale took a holistic approach to the data centre, installing temperature and humidity sensors in the aisles to enable better communication between all the units, which were repositioned to optimise control reference points. This provided more granular visibility of the condition of the air feeding the data halls. With this information, Airedale could identify areas where SCC could reduce energy consumption on the CRAC unit. Richard Nicholls, Sales Engineer at Airedale, explained: “We initially looked at how we can sequence the chillers to reduce the drain on power. Due to the layout of the water system, we decided to look on the inside developed a system to reduce energy consumption by bringing the fan speeds down as low possible whilst maintaining the flow of pressure in the data hall. This has produced significant reduction in energy usage and increased resilience.” “During initial site investigations it was ascertained that by intelligently managing the precision cooling units at Fareham, significant energy efficiencies could be realised. The existing EC fans allowed us to revert from all fans running a 2N arrangement to hot standby, allowing all the cooling units to contribute towards providing a positive pressure in the floor void, while at a reduced fan speed than what was currently utilised. Additional sensors allowed us to shift set point management from the supply air path to within the cold aisle itself, giving us better data on what conditions were at rack level and allowing us to fine tune supply air temperatures, raising them where possible to deliver additional energy efficiency. Live psychrometric plotting allowed us to run the system at its most efficient settings whilst remaining within the strict SLA requirements and the whole system is security hardened, reverting to local unit control in the event of failure.

The results

Ross Pollock reported: “A feasibility study was undertaken onsite initially focussing on the chiller system and then branching into the CRAC Units’ control to fully understand the complexities of the various control strategies of each private suite. CRAC Unit design was considered along with risk, control strategy, plant availability improvements and energy and carbon reductions. Richard Nichols and his team provided a solution where we could utilise their ACIS Software to enhance the control of the CRAC Units by better utilising the available chilled water and reducing the Fan Speeds while maintaining pressure and increasing the availability of plant through automation while continuing to meet our tight SLAs.The overall project was delivered both on-time and on budget without incident. It was a real pleasure working with the Airedale team to deliver such outstanding results.” Evidence of the energy reduction is shown on the graph below. The ACIS system has provided a phenomenal drop in power utilisation and major increase in cooling efficiency. Power consumption was peaking at 210kW and now runs at around 65kW to cool the same IT load. Fareham Data Centre Power Usage Laurence added: “The system in Fareham can be and will be enhanced further over the coming months. We have already started technical reviews and feasibility discussions with Airedale to build on this success and implement similar controls at our Midlands based Data Centre in Tyseley, Birmingham. I’m very positive about the enhancements and efficiencies we can deliver across our sites. The Data Centre Teams are constantly building on their knowledge and experience and with the support of our key suppliers not only will we continue to provide the reliability and uptime our clients demand and expect, but we will be doing that with a true focus of providing future long-term efficiencies that support sustainability and our environment.

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