Cooling a Department of Defense Data Center


Zack Fanning

Marketing Communications Manager

Data centers are the most energy-intense DoD (Department of Defense) buildings.  They account for roughly 11% of all electricity consumed by the DoD with 40% going to cooling alone. That translates into 7.5 trilion BTUs/year of unused heat. Because of this extraordinary waste, multiple Federal mandates are driving the DoD to increase energy efficiency, increase the use of renewable energy and to consolidate the data centers into ones with excellent Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE.)   Similar mandates affect data centers operated by other departments of the Federal government.

In 2014, Asetek® began work on a $2.4 million project for the design and installation of Asetek’s energy saving RackCDU™ liquid cooling technology at the U.S. Army’s Sparkman Center Data Center at Redstone Arsenal located in Huntsville, Alabama. The Redstone environment in this multi-phase project is both highly virtualized and high utilization. The installation is sponsored by the ESTCP (Environmental Security Testing and Certification Program). (The ESTCP is the Department of Defense’s demonstration program for energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.)

In a first of its kind in a DoD data center, the program will address the DoD’s major energy goals of decreased energy use, waste heat recovery, and increased density while also maintaining data center uptime. The installation also seeks to increase user acceptance of Asetek’s technology by showing 60% cooling energy savings, 40% waste-heat recovery and 2.5x consolidation within existing infrastructure. In addition, the payback period is anticipated to be less than one year.

The groundbreaking installation promises to generate visibility and showcase Asetek’s technology in the rest of the DoD data center community.

The program is rolling out in 3 stages:

Stage 1: One rack of new HP DL-560 servers will be pre-installed with half air cooled and half liquid cooled servers for side by side measurements. The remaining air cooled servers will then be converted to liquid cooling for before and after measurements. This will validate the performance and reliability of the system while giving operators the proper training.

Stage 2: Next, a retrofit will be made on 3-5 racks of servers and “before” measurements will be taken. These racks will then be consolidated into 2 racks for “after” measurements. This stage will demonstrate the density and consolidation benefits of RackCDU D2C while validating the “no disruption” installation. It will also demonstrate the ability of Asetek’s RackCDU to be incorporated into servers previously installed into data centers.

Stage 3: A full scale retrofit will then be installed with “before” measurements taken and then consolidated into 22 RackCDU cooled racks for “after” measurements. Additionally, energy re-use through waste heat recovery will be simulated.  The solution being implemented at Redstone Arsenal will also be applicable to the majority of the DoD’s massive existing data center stock.

The project is currently in Stage 1 with Stage 2 to begin in the next few months. Stage 3 is anticipated to be completed some time in 2015.

This is the first project that brings together Asetek and their Certified Installer Integrator, Johnson Controls Inc. (JCI). JCI is performing installation of the system, including energy management controls, performance monitoring and the facility heat rejection system. Furthermore, NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) will perform modeling and data analysis of the testing that occurs during the project.

Throughout the 3 stage project, Asetek’s RackCDU D2C solution will be tested and validated to address the objectives of the federal government that can then be extrapolated to other data centers around the world. 

Liquid Cooled HP DL-560

Liquid Cooled HP DL-560

Front of "Stage 1" Rack

Front of "Stage 1" Rack