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Growing IT-Solutions Provider Chooses Modular Plants for Mission-Critical Cooling

May 1, 2012
Modules safeguard performance of data servers

Phoenix NAP provides colocation, dedicated hosting, and cloud services from a full-service data center in Phoenix. A carrier-neutral facility, the data center serves as primary network-access point for the greater southwest region, keeping customers’ data accessible 24 hr a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

The first phase of the two-story Phoenix NAP building officially opened in June 2010, following the complete renovation of a one-story warehouse. It is the mission-critical-data-center equivalent of a Class A office building, with both style and security immediately apparent upon entering the sleek lobby with guard station.

Mission-Critical Cooling
To meet the facility’s cooling needs, Phoenix NAP chose two Daikin McQuay Modular Central Plants, each featuring a 720-ton centrifugal chiller with variable-frequency drive (VFD). Phoenix NAP worked closely with McQuay International’s Solutions Group to customize the plants, adding redundancy. The plants were configured with dual headers. Dual chilled-water and condenser-water pumps with independent power supply and controls keep the plants running separately, in the event of mechanical or electrical disturbances.

Barry Naegele, director of Daikin McQuay MCP Solutions Sales, said the plants at Phoenix NAP represent the most redundant cooling solution McQuay has built to date.

“Uptime is the most mission-critical objective of Phoenix NAP, and the cooling system needs to support that,” Naegele said. “We demonstrated that we could offer uptime support, reliability, and redundancy in order to maintain the system in the internal data-center environment.”

The plants’ modular design, which includes removable walls and roof, enabled Phoenix NAP to meet a tight construction schedule and provides the flexibility to expand cooling capacity with minimal incremental cost. Pre-assembly of the units shortened on-site construction time, while pre-commissioning of select components ensured quick startup.

“We were looking for support from the holistic maintenance perspective of the units, including the pumps and controls,” Ian McClarty, president of Phoenix NAP, said.

The plants were integrated with the facility’s building-automation system by Automated Logic Corp. (ALC) using the BACnet protocol. The ALC system allows 24/7 monitoring of all building systems and offers customized views, with data levels set by user requirements.

“We appreciate the level of engineering by McQuay and the thought that goes into designing its solutions,” McClarty said. “For example, mechanical arms were included to hold the pumps to avoid lifting the equipment during maintenance.”

Advanced Data-Center Design
Phoenix NAP employs design elements typically found only in European data centers and uses advanced security protocols to ensure data security. The design configuration separates carrier equipment from customer equipment, making maintenance easier. The advanced design includes two dedicated meet-me vaults with separate fiber runs into the building. A highly secure meet-me room and a separate cross-connect room gives carriers their own dedicated space.

To optimize airflow, redundant computer-room air handlers are arranged in an N+4 configuration with electronically commutated fans with V-frame coil design. A bidirectional closed water loop maximizes redundancy by avoiding single points of failure and allowing concurrent maintainability.

The facility was designed for staged expansion within the current structure, including the conversion of leased office space to computer rooms. To maximize available space for customers and conserve energy, Phoenix NAP located its mechanical area outside of the building. The 45,000-sq-ft service yard houses the modular chiller plants, cooling towers, makeup tanks, uninterruptible-power-supply backup systems, and other equipment. The secure yard also includes room for additional cooling equipment as the data center expands.

“Potential customers frequently ask about the facility’s cooling system,” McClarty said. “During early meetings, tech people will have specific questions, such as how much cooling do you have and your system design. They also want maintenance information. We are transparent with them because we want to build that trust.”

The modular plants feature an observation module that allows clients to observe the cooling equipment in action.

Benefits for the Bottom Line
Phoenix NAP’s data center operates at a relatively low power-utilization-effectiveness rate of 1.39. The modular plants contribute to low energy consumption and a smaller carbon footprint with:

VFDs, which improve part-load energy efficiency and reduce demand on backup systems.

R-134a refrigerant, which has zero ozone-depletion potential and no phaseout schedule under the Montreal Protocol.

Additionally, the plants were built in McQuay’s Phoenix manufacturing facility, minimizing transportation costs and helping the local economy.

Positioned for Growth
Because of continued business growth, Phoenix NAP has installed two additional plants, each with a 700-ton Daikin McQuay Magnitude chiller. The chillers’ magnetic-bearing compressors eliminate the efficiency-robbing friction inherent in traditional centrifugal chillers, while an integrated VFD optimizes part-load efficiency.

The service yard can support four additional modular plants, bringing the total number of plants to eight and the total cooling capacity to 5,700 tons.

To help ensure the cooling system continues to operate reliably and efficiently, Phoenix NAP chose a multiyear agreement with McQuay for regular inspections and routine service.

McClarty said Phoenix NAP is confident in its decision to go with Daikin McQuay moving forward.

“Finding a one-stop solution provider like McQuay for infrastructure as a service is invaluable to us as a data center,” McClarty said. “McQuay isn’t selling us chillers; they’re selling us devices that produce cooling, and they support those devices.”

Information courtesy of McQuay International.

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