Schneider Electric and APT deliver new NHS Data Centre with Overhead Cooling
A new high density data centre provides the electronic heartbeat for NHS Airedale, Bradford and Leeds’ IT services in Bradford and Airedale. The new facility is the first global installation of Schneider Electric’s InRow OA, over-aisle cooling solution.
Over 500,000 people in Bradford and Airedale currently use healthcare services provided by NHS Airedale, Bradford and Leeds. The local population already includes a higher than UK average number of young people, and is expected to climb to 650,000 in the coming decades. NHS Airedale, Bradford and Leeds is responsible for all the health services delivered in the local community by GPs, dentists, pharmacists, opticians, voluntary organisations and local and specialist hospitals.
The PCT’s Bradford data centre provides a number of IT services to 129 of PCT sites, including 84 GP surgeries as well as dental health, podiatrists and palliative care providers. Services supported include Sharepoint collaboration tools, various websites, e-mail including webmail, Blackberry services and telemedicine.
Prior to the installation of its new, high density facility, there had been issues with the PCT’s aging main production data centre. The data centre was just about out of space and cooling capacity, restricting IT growth as well as the requirement for new servers to enable a more robust, efficient and scalable approach to service provision.
Although the PCT is in the midst of a server virtualisation programme which could potentially free up IT space, the existing facility was not thought to provide a suitable environment for the new IT server load. A stable and reliable data centre is critical to power and cool the high density servers selected for the existing services moving forward, as well as for forthcoming requirements including a major, 4500-seat desktop virtualisation project.
The Brief for a New Data Centre
Having eliminated the possibility of upgrading the existing data centre, the PCT selected a new room in one of its office buildings as a potential site in which to deploy a new server room. However, instead of producing a specification for the new facility, the PCT issued a tender to five data centre design and build consultancies, passing over to them the initiative to come up with innovative solutions which would maximise the full capacity potential of the room.
The companies bidding for the new data centre therefore had a free hand to architect the room in any way they chose in order to enable the PCT to install as much IT equipment as possible into the room, with adequate power and cooling.
However, there were two important limitations affecting the build; firstly the data centre was to be housed in a listed building (i.e., a building which has been placed on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest). Therefore the PCT wanted to avoid the complications of special planning requirements needed for alterations to such structures, such as the installation of a suspended floor.
The second limitation concerns the ownership of the building which is leased and not owned by the PCT. The PCT wanted to be sure that any data centre infrastructure equipment in which it invested would be portable and re-usable at another site should circumstances change and a move to a new location be required.
Tender responses to NHS Airedale, Bradford and Leeds
“Given our open brief,” said Martin Powis, Head of IT & Telecoms Infrastructure at NHS Airedale, Bradford and Leeds, “it was interesting how many of the designs put forward were based around APC by Schneider Electric’s InfraStruxure architecture for on-demand data centres.
Paul Arnett, who runs the PCT’s Server Team, including mail services and the Virtualisation Farm, said: “We liked the way that all the various data centre components from PDU, UPS and cabinets to cooling and security are all designed to work together and integrated. Whether the equipment is badged APC or NetBotz, we have the possibility to view all our data centre systems in a ‘single pane of glass’ using the company’s StruxureWare Central software. What was slightly more difficult was selecting from the various proposals with all of the hot aisle containment, in-row cooling and room cooling options on offer.”
However, the design proposal made by Advanced Power Technology (APT), an Elite Partner to Schneider Electric, was deemed by the PCT to be the most appropriate solution. The successful design makes use of Schneider Electric’s recently introduced APC InRow OA overhead cooling units to enable a high density data centre with a contained hot aisle. A major benefit of the over-aisle cooling design is that the space constraint is mitigated because the overhead cooling units take up absolutely no room on the data centre floor.
The new data centre includes 8 equipment racks protected by an 80kW APC Symmetra UPS (64kW N+1), with the InRow OA cooling units suspended over the contained hot aisle and providing up to 8kW/ rack cooling capacity. Both the cooling and power protection is scalable and the room could accommodate a further two equipment cabinets if required (cabling and pipe work is pre-installed to enable the space to be utilised at a later date).
The new NHS Airedale, Bradford and Leeds Data Centre
“The new data centre provides us with almost twice the physical space for servers that we had in the old – which had the same amount of floor space. But the real benefit of our new data centre is that we now have ten times the data centre processing power we had before,” said Martin Powis.
The over-aisle cooling means that none of the valuable white space in the data centre is taken up with cooling equipment – providing more physical room for servers. Additionally, since the hot aisle is contained, the data centre can run higher power density and higher server temperatures more predictably. In addition to a better managed and more productive environment, this will also enable lower operating costs as the physical infrastructure is run nearer to optimum efficiency.
APC by Schneider Electric’s Infrastruxure provides a modular approach to data centre deployment. Although the new data centre already provides more capacity than the old, it still has room for more equipment cabinets to meet growth needs. When the time comes, the UPS can be upgraded with additional power and battery modules, and the cooling with additional units for which the pipework is already in place. In the meantime, NHS Airedale, Bradford and Leeds is able to conserve its capital budget as well as gain opex benefits from having the IT load requirement and infrastructure supply closely matched to one another.
Once appointed by the PCT, APT were able to meet all of the installation and commissioning deadlines set, even accommodating amendments to the design as the project progressed and evolved.
Martin Powis said: “GPs are not compelled to use the PCT’s data centres to provide IT services – the practices are private entities and as such, they have the right of any customer to put their business where they choose. It’s up to us, as the service provider to ensure that we are the first choice. The new data centre should go a long way to helping us maintain our customers’ trust and business.”