C&IT data center almost complete

Construction on the new Wayne State University Computing & Information Technology data center is almost complete, with electrical and mechanical systems estimated to be completed before December and the facility ready to be turned over to the university by the end of the year. From there, it will take about six months to move all of the computing systems to the new building. Once finished, the new building will be able to support nearly two times the current data center’s computing capabilities and will be prepped to support even more servers.

Construction on the new C&IT data center Sept. 5, 2018.

The current data center was built in the 1960s.  Now that the current room has become more difficult and expensive to maintain due to aging systems with hard-to-find parts, WSU began construction on a new data center in September 2017.

Lawrence Bott, associate director of critical facilities support for C&IT, said that he tried to “futureproof” the new data center by projecting the department’s needs for the next 5-10 years and designing around those needs with the capacity to add new servers. In addition to the new data center, a companion project to build a new electrical substation with redundant primary power feeds from DTE began last September. The new substation will contain two independent power lines, each capable of powering the entire facility.  Should one system fail, the other system will be able to power the building with no issues, providing a consistently reliable environment for the servers.

 “When working in the design phase, we had to decide what was most critically needed in the finished room to make the best use of the money budgeted to the project,” Bott explained. “We had to go through several ‘value engineering’ sessions to figure out what could and couldn't be sacrificed, and still end up with a finished computing center that met the standards of a modern data center.”

The Kyoto Cooling Wheel in the new C&IT data center Sept. 5, 2018.

One of the biggest improvements in the data center is the new cooling system. Currently, air conditioning cools the existing room constantly, whether it’s hot or cold outside. The new data center will be cooled by a rotary heat exchanger, the Kyoto Wheel. The new system uses a 13’ diameter corrugated aluminum wheel that transfers hot air outside, rotates in the outside air stream and cools to the ambient temperature, then rotates the cool air back inside.

The new system is 98 percent efficient at cooling the room in temperatures below 67 degrees Fahrenheit. On hotter days, the Kyoto system has traditional cooling capacity to supplement the cooling wheel and prevent the servers from overheating. This upgrade is estimated to save thousands of dollars per year, and according to Bott, should break even in energy savings within five years. 

“After years of concern and sleepless nights, we will finally be operating a computing room that doesn't have any single point of failure,” said Bott.  

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