To Build New or Modernize? Calgary Operations Insiders Weigh the Pros and Cons

CALGARY, ALBERTA — CapRE’s inaugural Calgary and Alberta Data Center Summit featured a rousing panel titled Data Center Management & Operations: Trends in Power & Cooling, which covered a wealth of topics affecting the central theme of operations: edge computing, cooling for high density, crypto-currency technology, and more. To conclude, Moderator David O’Reilly, Vice President of the IT Solution Division at Schneider Electric asked a pair of panelists to shine light on one of the most eternal question in the operations space.

data center summit“One of the things that clients who own and run data centers have taken a look at, is the strategies about whether to build new or to modernize,” remarked O’Reilly to panelist Dietmar Bloedorn, Principal Data Centre Design Engineer at PowerHouse Data Centre Group. “Can you talk to us a little bit about some of the strategies and comparison that a customer might do?”

“Actually and interestingly enough, PowerHouse does quite a bit of that for our clients. It’s broader than just their own data center,” replied Bloedorn. “We always like to look at a bigger picture of bringing in colocation and Cloud and how that fits into the whole equation. But in the end it usually ends up being a hybrid solution. In many cases the data centers aren’t that far off from where they need to be, that you could make something of them.”

However, the challenge is to do that in a production environment, shared Bloedorn. “You’ve got to try and keep the operations up and running while you’re doing this renovation work, but there is definitely still a lot of low-hanging fruit that’s available, where you can improve the efficiency simply by putting in some containment, re-organizing the equipment perhaps, looking to make sure that there is true front-to-back airflow and those types of things,” he explained.

Dietmar Bloedorn, Principal Data Centre Design Engineer, PowerHouse Data Centre Group

“If you get into bigger projects, such as air conditioner replacement, there is definitely newer technologies that are available,” he concluded. “Even though it’s all still physics, there are different ways of skinning the cat. And we’re finding ways to maybe bring some of the more current energy efficiencies and free cooling capabilities into existing data centers, without causing too much disruption. So we have had a lot of success doing that.”

“And you folks do great work doing it too, so thank you,” responded O’Reilly. He then looked to Robert Feeneyvan Data Center Manager for SHAW for further flavor. “Robert, from a Shaw perspective, what are your thoughts on this? You folks have existing data centers, you’ve got data centers with raised floors, do you modernize or do you build? What do you think there?”

“I think a lot of it depends on what you’ve got to begin with,” he replied. “If you’re got like, a 2N critical infrastructure set up, then you can take a UPS offline, you can take a generator offline, you can take the CRAC units offline. It won’t impact your Uptime or your business.”

However, Feeneyvan continued, if you start off with an N+1 model and you utilize it to its maximum, then it’s a different story. “You’re going to really struggle to change and upgrade at the same time,” he stressed. “I think it depends on what your model looks like. How much capacity do you want to build? What are you building for? Will you fit it into the existing model or do you have to put it into a new model?”

For more from Bloedorn, Feeneyvan and their co-panelists, check out previous CapRE Insider Reports: