The real question: How does Skanska manage the feat? Fortunately, like Facebook and Google, the company is willing to provide at least a little insight into its green data center secrets: a patented system called the eOptiTrax CDU that uses cooling coils the likes of which you would find in a refrigerator to chill racks. That liquid coolness goes in through the back of the racks, cools the machines, and enters the hot aisle; it's then recirculated.
"We've taken a 20-year-old technology and adapted to the data center," said Kirby.
This approach is less energy intensive than traditional CRAC (computer room air conditioning) units, where fans whir day and night, battling the laws of physics ( blowing cold air upward into racks) and leaving the facility feeling a bit like a meat locker. As a point of comparison, it generally requires 90 watts of power to cool a single server; Skanska says with its system, cooling a server takes 0.3 watt.
The use of cooling coils also means a significant reduction in water usage and waste, according to Skanska: 80 percent less than traditional cooling systems use.
The cooling component is just part of the overall Skanska modular data center package, which actually comes in two forms: The eHive, which is a containerized-style data center that can be set, say, behind a hospital or on a rooftop, thus freeing up otherwise valuable floor space, and the eComb, which are suited for a more traditional warehouse-style environment. Both can be expanded in modular increments of 250kW. Each rack can support as much as 60kW; customers choose which brands of IT equipment they want to use.
The ability to expand in increments is among the key selling points to modular data centers. It means you don't have to spend money on racks and equipment until you more or less need to. (It takes around 16 weeks to add new module.)
Skanska also offers software tools for managing and monitoring the data center, down to the branch-circuit level. That means a data center operator can track how effectively and efficiently a particular rack, aisle, or data center is operating at any given time. Additionally, according to Kirby, the software includes bill-back functionality that enables a data center operator to track resource usage on a per-customer basis and charge accordingly.
Skanska is relatively late to the modular data center game compared to powerhouses like IBM and HP; it's also not a well-known entity, at least here in the United States. But the company does have an interesting story to tell about the efficiency of its facilities, which translates to potentially lower operating costs, not to mention a greener environmental footprint.
This story, "Skanska marries 20-year-old refrigerator technology to 21st-century data centers," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.