451 Research: Uptime Institute finds datacenters still differentiated by vision, design and efficiency

InsightaaS: In the spirit of the Uptime Institute’s founding raison d’etre – the sharing of best practice in data centre design, technology and operation, InsightaaS is pleased to present here a review on winners of the annual Brill Awards for Efficient IT. Established to honour the late founder of the Uptime Institute, Ken Brill, the awards program represents an extension of the Green Enterprise IT Awards created by Brill to encourage and recognize the efforts of data centre owners and operators to innovate in the interest of greater energy efficiency.

Andy Lawrence, research VP, datacenter technologies & eco-efficient IT, 451 Research Group
Andy Lawrence, research VP, datacenter technologies & eco-efficient IT, 451 Research Group

In the research below, a veteran observer of sustainable IT as it applies to data centre operations, Andy Lawrence, outlines the Brill Award process and describes this year’s winners who are remarkable not only for their ability to reach new levels of environmental efficiency and cost reduction, but also for how they achieved this. Lawrence, who serves as 451 Research Group’s research VP for datacenter technologies & eco-efficient IT, points to collaboration between IT and critical facilities management teams (an ongoing topic of debate at Uptime Symposia), innovation in power and cooling engineering, use of advanced technologies such as DCIM to improve management, modular build and rationalization of IT as critical success factors. For Lawrence, the case studies demonstrate that innovation is “alive and well” in the industry, despite an increasing trend towards standardization of critical facilities infrastructure and processes, due in part to the fact that award winner are “outliers.” This is how it should be – innovation leaders recognized in the awards are expected to serve as an example that may inspire others to consider the potential benefit of experimentation and risk. Those of you who believe ‘green IT’ is lip service to a distant and not terribly practical eco arbiter, read on for an impressive display of enterprise data centre ingenuity – and its reward. (ed.)


The winning case studies for the annual Uptime Institute Brill Awards for Efficient IT are not for the weak of mind. The awards show that detailed advanced engineering, IT and management innovation is alive and well in both the enterprise IT and commercial datacenter sectors.

The awards, managed by 451 Research’s sister company The Uptime Institute, are widely considered to be the most rigorously judged in the industry, and the subsequent case studies are closely studied by operators for opportunities to innovate, and by suppliers for signs of new directions. Winners are expected to exhibit efficiency in datacenter and IT operations in the broadest sense of the word: efficiency of capital deployment, technology, design, operations and overall management.

The 2015 winners were notable for a number of reasons:

  • A more holistic approach to IT and facilities, often merging departmental responsibilities and exploiting the way innovations in one area can be leveraged elsewhere.
  • A willingness to deploy relatively unproven technologies and invest in capital projects that produced energy savings that would pay back over time.
  • The fact that all but a few of the winners came from the enterprise (rather than commercial) datacenter segment.

The 2015 Brill Awards spanned five categories across four global regions: APAC, EMEA, Latin America and North America. This year’s categories were Datacenter Design, Operational Datacenter Upgrade, Datacenter Facilities Management, IT Systems Efficiency and Product Solutions. Uptime also elevates certain winners out of their individual categories to a Global Leadership Award, to demonstrate excellence across multiple disciplines or regions.

The Brill Awards judging panel was designed to span a wide variety of perspectives, comprising 90 in-region experts from the datacenter operator, vendor and consulting communities.* The Brill Awards program was created in honor of Uptime’s late founder, Ken Brill, and extends the scope of and replaces the Green Enterprise IT (GEIT) Awards, which Brill founded in 2008.

The 451 Take

It’s a common cliché of all award competitions to say that the standard just keeps on rising. That may be debated, but one thing does come across clearly from the Brill Awards: it is still very much possible to invest in engineering and innovation to achieve a competitive edge and substantial financial savings in datacenter operations. This appears to go against the trend for prefabricated, granular and standardized datacenters. To an extent, this may be explained because the Brill Award winners are outliers who maintain deep experts on staff, but it also shows that there are many ways to innovate – even if the basic building blocks are standardized and the innovation is all in software. In the years ahead, there will be room for both approaches.

Global Leadership

In 2015, two awards will be given for Global Leadership:

Boeing: The Boeing team was selected for its holistic approach to IT efficiency. By focusing on efficiencies and new technologies in server hardware, and integrating those requirements and capacity plans into its new datacenter designs, Boeing was able to achieve significant savings.

The company’s new IT hardware procurement strategy reduced power consumption by 30%, compared with the legacy equipment, while also providing a 50% reduction in floor-space requirements. Electrical and communication cabling was also reduced by more than 60% with the adoption of blade servers and converged infrastructure. The team deployed a third-party datacenter design to match the equipment density requirements, using hot-aisle containment and indirect air-side economization to achieve significant capital expenditure and energy savings.

United Airlines: The United team was selected for its robust yet energy-efficient datacenter design, as well as the integration of its IT and critical facilities management teams. More than three years ago, after merging with Continental Airlines, United realized that it was essential to merge IT services. With that goal in mind – and eight datacenters to manage – a plan was put in place to condense these facilities into two datacenters as a long-term goal. To meet that goal, United started on the design and buildout of a new greenfield 167,000-square-foot complex, inclusive with a 25,000-square-foot, 4MW expandable to 6MW datacenter near Chicago. The facility was commissioned in October 2013 and became operational in February 2014.

United also merged IT management structures when it developed the Critical Infrastructure Services (CFS) to manage this new datacenter. The CFS team supports all United datacenters, reservation centers and airport IT infrastructure assets around the globe under a single team. This integrated structure remediated the traditional siloed nature of IT and facilities teams, and created a cooperative environment for buildout, maintenance, security and capacity planning for United’s portfolio of critical IT resources.

Main awards

The 2015 Brill Award winners are drawn from the five categories and four regions identified above. In total, there are 13 winners. These are:

DuPont Fabros Technology (DFT): In mid-2014, datacenter vendor DFT placed into service the largest and most energy-efficient datacenter in its portfolio. This huge facility is called ACC7. DFT focused on achieving three goals when designing the facility:

  • 1. Building a datacenter that is less expensive to build on a per-megawatt basis
  • 2. Lowering maintenance costs
  • 3. Achieving an industry-leading power usage effectiveness (PUE) less than 1.2

ACC7 totals 446,000 gross square feet, with a total critical power capacity of 41.6MW when fully built out. Each of its 28 computer rooms will be equipped to deliver a standard critical load of 1.486MW, with the ability to increase density to offer up to 2.0MW. (Datacenter Design, North America)

European Business Reliance Centre (EBRC): Commercial datacenter operator EBRC operates five distant and interconnected state-of-the-art facilities in Luxembourg. Uptime Institute has certified two of these datacenters as Tier IV Certified Constructed Facilities (TCCF); a third facility, presently certified Tier IV Certified Design Documents, will be submitted for TCCF in 2015. TIV means the datacenter has been build to the highest, ‘fault tolerant’ availability standards and is the highest level of Uptime certification possible. EBRC’s vision is to be a center of excellence in Europe in the management of sensitive information. (Datacenter Facilities Management, EMEA)

Falabella: Falabella, a large retailer in Chile, completed a new datacenter in Santiago that includes the following features:

  • Four 400-square-meter (m2) IT rooms to be installed in four steps in a 7,680-m2 facility
  • Installed loads of 671kW per room (180 racks with 3,726W per rack)
  • 48-hour minimum diesel storage for generators
  • Five UPS room with two 400kW UPS each (one for each IT room and one standby unit), allowing growth on demand
  • Five 2.0-megavolt-amperes generators configured N+1

Falabella met the challenge of providing these features with a low budget and minimum capex by conceiving and delivering the project in a modular way, sharing costs among the phases. (Datacenter Design, LATAM)

Itaú Unibanco: Itaú Unibanco, a large bank based in Brazil, transformed its datacenter by virtualizing its x86 servers. The bank’s goal in the medium term was to stop increasing physical equipment in the facility due to space limitations. Before beginning the virtualization process, Itaú Unibanco adopted a number of strategies to address obsolete servers and identify good candidates for virtualization. These practices are now continuous. (IT Efficiency, LATAM)

Morgan Stanley: Financial services firm Morgan Stanley devised a simple and tactical – yet effective – way of correlating existing raw BMS branch circuit monitoring data with power-chain information to facilitate custom DCIM-type power information with minimal cost. IT equipment capacity constraints acted as the catalyst for making use of this data to develop capacity-management awareness. This has in turn facilitated efficiencies through maximization of critical resource utilization, increasing IT operational awareness and adding another element for use toward lowering total cost of ownership. (Datacenter Facilities Management, North America)

NEXTDC: NEXTDC, an Australia-based datacenter operator and service provider, utilizes isolated parallel diesel rotary UPS power systems from Piller as the basis for the reliability of its datacenters. This innovative design allows the company to eliminate batteries and static switches from its facilities and provide continuous power to IT equipment, even in the event of a UPS failure, thus eliminating common causes of IT downtime.

NEXTDC’s mechanical systems employ Turbocor magnetic-bearing, low-friction compressors as key components in high-efficiency multi-compressor chillers, and utilize free air- and water-side economization in conjunction with variable-speed fans, hot/cold-aisle containment and innovative floor grille management to maintain an energy-efficient and reliable IT environment. (Product Solutions, APAC)

Nomura Research Institute: Nomura Research Institute’s new datacenter in Japan employs an innovative double-deck system designed to meet the cooling needs of IT loads up to 30kW per rack (allowing for high-density computing and workloads). The double-deck system separates maintenance areas from server areas by floor and provides a well-balanced and stable volume of cold air to computing devices. In addition, the facility uses free cooling and electronically commutated motors, resulting in total power savings of 30% compared with its existing datacenters. (Datacenter Design, APAC).

Porto Seguro: The datacenter team that manages five facilities of Porto Seguro, a Brazil-based insurance provider, uses a command center and a DCIM process to monitor, control and operate its sites, enabling the company to pursue efficiency and reliability initiatives. These functions have helped Porto Seguro improve the reliability and availability of its facilities, make and report economic and environmental gains, and launch cloud computing initiatives. (Datacenter Facilities Management, LATAM)

Raytheon: The IT sustainability program at defense systems manufacturer Raytheon has significantly improved the efficiency of the company’s IT operations, including efficiency improvements across IT systems, facilities management and even corporate real estate strategy. The steps taken include:

  • 3,000 servers virtualized or decommissioned since 2011
  • Increased IT hardware cooling set points to reduce cooling energy use
  • Matching application criticality to site redundancy level

In 2011, Raytheon committed to 15 public sustainability goals, including a goal to generate one megawatt of IT power savings by 2015, which the team met, well ahead of schedule. In addition to energy savings, the program has generated more than $30m in cost-avoidance savings through reduced requirements for server hardware, system administration, occupancy and energy. Raytheon has set further goals for its IT efficiency in the future and plans to deploy IT to reduce energy use in other company operations. (IT Efficiency, North America)

Swisscom: The Wankdorf datacenter built by Switzerland-based telco Swisscom combines adiabatic cooling with rainwater, which completely eliminates the need for mechanical chillers and harmful refrigerants, and significantly reduces energy use. Swisscom deploys redundant air-conditioning units equipped with separate cold-water networks to cool its ICT rooms. Hybrid re-coolers and redundant circulating pumps produce and transfer cool water for the air-conditioning units. When the outside temperature exceeds 21°C, treated water is introduced into the stream of warm air to extract heat through water evaporation and adiabatic cooling. (Datacenter Design, EMEA)

Chesapeake Energy: The Chesapeake Energy IT Computing Center includes three completely separate electrical distribution systems to help the facility meet newly defined power reliability goals. The design led to significant savings, eliminating the need for parallel generators and switchgear as well as static transfer-switch PDUs. Close coordination with operators of a 6,000-ton campus central cooling plant enabled Chesapeake to meet requirements for continuous cooling during design and construction. (Datacenter Design, North America)

AIG: Insurance and financial services firm AIG updated a legacy datacenter environment to a next-generation facility capable of housing the latest technologies to meet ever-expanding IT demands. This transformation was accomplished while keeping the entire site operational, phasing in the next-generation equipment alongside the legacy equipment. Upgrades include a new UPS system, cooling enhancements such as VFDs and raised-air set-point temperatures. AIG has also implemented detailed monitoring systems to further track savings and utilization trending over time. (Operational Datacenter Upgrade, North America)

Banco Bradesco: Brazil-based Banco Bradesco installed two 1,000kVA UPSs, two 240-element battery banks, two 2,000kVA transformers, one 1,000kVA transformer, 25 electric panels, two 1,500kVA generators and two 15,000-liter diesel tanks as part of a technological upgrade of the facility’s supply and energy distribution systems.

Bradesco planned and implemented these changes with minimum impact on the bank’s services and business. Equipment installation was concluded in months (138 days), following the schedule and operational windows of the bank with uninterrupted weekly activities. The project has extended the lifecycle of the datacenter IT infrastructure approximately 10 years, based on current technologies. (Operational Datacenter Upgrade, LATAM)



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.