Virtus turns the construction of efficient datacentres into a fine art
London2, Virtus’s flagship datacentre in Hayes, is intelligent by design and focuses on providing a green facility that meets the changing ways in which businesses consume data in the digital age.
Virtus owns, designs, builds and operates a new generation of agile, connected, efficient data centres around the heart of London’s cloud and digital content economy.
"No one can get away from the fact that datacentres consume electricity. As an operator, we must make sure any resource is consumed to the lowest possible level" Matthew Larbey, Director of Product Strategy, Virtus
Virtus’ new LONDON2 facility presented a variety of challenges for the Virtus design team: develop a competitive CapEx profile compared to London’s best-inclass data centres, while ensuring Virtus’ high standards for quality, flexibility and service at minimum operating cost and at a market competitive PUE. To put it in their own words, a “Virtus intelligent data centre flexible by design”and independently verified.
Virtus engaged Romonet based on their credentials for TCO and data centre modelling. Romonet provides an independent assessment and determined the lifecycle running costs of the datacentre. The assessment was based on a comparison of different suppliers and overall capital and operational cost profiles across a 10-year period.
“Datacentre construction used to be based on spreadsheets of information,” says Matthew Larbey. “Romonet allows us to create a datacentre model that supports the changing demands of the customer base. We can use advanced mathematics, predictive modelling and data science to create a virtual design model before we actually build the facility.”
By building a number of models, Romonet predicted the total cost of ownership (TCO) for Virtus London2. The detailed assessment meant Larbey and his colleagues knew in advance how the new facility’s assets would be installed and connected.
Such awareness substantially reduced the time spent on planning and logistics, as well as minimising construction risks. Overall project implementation time was reduced by eight weeks, which significantly cut construction costs.
Calculating datacentre energy efficiency
“The datacentre build typically starts with a high level list of requirements. In the case of London2, we knew from the start how much land was available and we then started to look at power, IT and customer demands,” says Larbey.
“You can then start to consider the really cool stuff, such as the level of resilience against the cost of implementation. You can pull all the requirements together and then think about the power and cooling requirements that will be required to support that approach. Romonet allows you to pick and play with different combinations and to consider different cost models,” he adds.
Romonet’s modelling also helped validate the firm’s choice of cooling system. In an attempt to achieve low power usage effectiveness (PUE) and a reduced TCO, Virtus London2 facility became one of the first in the capital to deploy Excool’s Indirect Adiabatic and Evaporative Datacentre Coolingtechnology.
Excool uses outdoor air through a series of heat exchangers, which enable cooling to take place without allowing outdoor air to enter the data hall, keeping air pollution hazards outside the building. The product uses less power and is directly fixed to the datacentre, helping to produce big cuts in every consumption.
Lesson & Results
The mechanical and electrical infrastructure is smaller than usual, costs are lower and energy consumption is typically between 5% and 10% of conventional systems. The technology also allows Virtus to reduce generator power use by 60% and transformer power by 70%, as well as to cut the amount of diesel stored on-site.
Larbey estimates the PUE of datacentres built five years ago was about 2.0. While the firm’s London1 facility went live in 2010 with a PUE of about 1.6, London2 has been designed with a PUE of less than 1.2. The Excool deployments are modular, which means Virtus can roll out additional cooling units to meet changing requirements.
“The modular approach we’ve taken means customers only add to the power requirements as their demands increase,” says Larbey. “No one can get away from the fact that datacentres consume electricity. As an operator, we must make sure any resource is consumed to the lowest possible level. Datacentre economics, energy process and green legislation is driving the requirement for providers to design the most efficient facilities.”
The innovative construction approach taken by Virtus has also helped reduce the time it takes to construct a datacentre. Five years ago, says Larbey, it would take up to 18 months to construct a new facility. London2, however, was ready in less than a year.
“You can get to target levels much quicker, and that saves money for us and our customers,” he says.
Virtus’s ultimate aim is to offer a flexible, efficient service at a lower price than its competitors. Larbey believes the money and time that he and his colleagues have spent in planning and analysing the strategy for London2 will provide a strong platform for further growth.
Following the successful application of VIRTUS’ LONDON1 data centre, Utilitywise will again be assisting VIRTUS in applying for and managing their CCA requirements for the new site.