Data Centers

A look at CenturyLink's new Minnesota data center

CenturyLink's new data center in Minnesota offers innovation along with standard best practices. Michael P. Kassner shares what he learned about the facility during a recent tour.

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Image courtesy of CenturyLink

CenturyLink just commissioned MP2, its second data center in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN. The data center's design is unique, in particular the use of modules to increase reliability and ease of replacement.

The facility is considered a retail data center, which offers managed and colocation services. MP2 contains 13,000 sq ft. of raised-floor space and offers 1.3 megawatts of computing capacity. Mike Cackoski, Minneapolis Data Center Facilities Manager, provided a tour of the data center, starting with a presentation about the building.

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Image courtesy of CenturyLink
Cackoski explained that security and reliability are paramount. One example offered by Cackoski was how the building's design protected the raised-floor area using 12-inch reinforced concrete walls and a 4-inch reinforced concrete ceiling (visible in the construction photo).

Cackoski mentioned the data center is built to a 1.5 importance factor for a category IV building in the IDC building code. The building can withstand winds up to 150 miles per hour and an F3 tornado.

As Cackoski said, security is a high-priority at MP2, with passing through man-traps being the only way into the building. Two-factor authentication using RFID badges and biometric scanners are required to gain access to the raised-floor area. Temperature and humidity are SLAS managed to the ASHRAE standard. VESDA smoke detectors, Fike fire detectors, and a dual-action dry pipe sprinkler system take care of fire detection and suppression duties.

Grid and backup power

CenturyLink considers MP2 a Tier III data center. That means the facility functionally must meet the following requirements:

  • 99.982% availability
  • 1.6 hours downtime per year
  • N+1 fault tolerance
  • 72-hour power-outage protection

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Image: Michael P. Kassner
To qualify as a Tier III facility, Compass Data Centers, the company that built MP2, used two independent grid-power sources. Rather than building a special room in the data center for the power equipment, Compass assembled and tested two power centers in Texas, then shipped the modules to Minnesota. Once on-site, the power-center modules were placed on reinforced concrete pads behind the building.

A backup generator sits alongside either power-center module. Buried tanks hold enough diesel fuel to meet the 72-hour power-outage protection requirement.

To identify which power center a particular cable connects to, Cackoski mentioned conduits — even floors — are color coded (blue or orange like the image to the right) to match the associated power center.

Cooling the raised floor area

There are no real innovations regarding cooling. Compass worked with Trane to build the modular roof units. They are Freon-based A/C units designed to keep the raised-floor compartment at 73 degrees F.

CenturyLink incorporated Subzero Engineering Rack Hats to prevent the mixing of hot and cold air. Rack Hats are a clear-vinyl containment system that separates hot air flow from cold, extending the advantage gained by using hot and cold aisle flooring.

When asked about the building's power usage effectiveness (PUE), Cackoski mentioned, being new, an operational PUE was not available, but the data center maintained a PUE of 1.4 during full-load testing. The building is also LEED Gold certified. To that point, it is interesting to note MP2's roof consists of a white reflective covering that passively reduces the heat load.

Certifications

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Image: Uptime Institute
MP2 is Uptime Institute certified in design and construction, meaning Uptime Institute engineers checked the data center's design and construction, and tested the facility's ability to meet Uptime certification requirements.

The data center also meets SSAE 16, PCI, HIPAA, and ISO 27001 standards.

Systems automation

Data centers must run as efficiently as possible to remain competitive in a tough market. Data center infrastructure management (DCIM) is one way of ensuring every system in a data center is optimized by monitoring/controlling both facility operation and services used by individual tenants. StruxureWare by Schneider Company is the DCIM brains for MP2, providing Cackoski and his staff with the following:

  • Building management: All building systems can be controlled from one computer. The DCIM console provides metrics to configure HVAC and power systems, report deviations from performance set points, PUE calculator, documentation of data-center operations, and real-time device alarms.
  • Customer capacity management: The DCIM allows CenturyLink staff to design and build the optimal rack solution for each customer and keep track of customer inventory.

The DCIM also allows CenturyLink to sell capacity rather than space.

Modularity

Modularity as a concept is present throughout MP2. The entire data center, in a sense, is a module. The reason became apparent when Cackoski said CenturyLink plans to add three more modules similar to MP2 at this location.

About Michael Kassner

Information is my field...Writing is my passion...Coupling the two is my mission.

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