When you think of processing centres, you normally think of large rooms stretching across row upon row of big grey boxes in which data is processed, forming the backbone of our digital society. But the amount of space being used in these rooms has actually shrunk in recent years, as hardware becomes ever more compact and servers become virtual. What is left are large rooms with a lot of space, with huge amounts of air being moved around and cooled – in other words a waste of energy.
“This was exactly what got us thinking about alternatives to common processing centres in large rooms”, explains Erwin Gasser, CEO of Swiss company Ergatec. The result of their brainstorming is the ValueShelter, a two meter-wide and two metre-high container that offers enough space for a standard 19-inch rack, into which active IT components can be inserted.
The data box in the cellar
Alongside protection against theft, fire, vandalism, sabotage and other environmental threats, one of the major challenges in developing the compact protective space was perfect air conditioning. “For components in information and communication technology (ICT) in particular, it is especially important that we have a closed circuit that no outside air with corrosive particles can penetrate”; says Gasser. That is why, together with his son Michael, he developed an air conditioning module with two separate air circuits.
“We benefit from the excellent power consumption level of the fans in partial load mode.”
Michael Gasser, IT Construction Engineer, Ergatec AG
A large customer in Bern presented the ideal conditions for the ValueShelter to be used. Working together with Ergatec, the customer chose a 160-year old rock cellar in the city to house its secure server. The average temperature here is ten degrees Celsius, with a relative humidity of around 90 percent. This is probably the last place where you would want to put your computer. But the ValueShelter’s special air conditioning module exploits the cold and moist air by turning the internal energy of the air into cooling energy.
The ValueShelter works especially well in cold and moist cellars, thanks to its special air conditioning module. The product is the brainchild of Michael and Erwin Gasser from Ergatec, with the help of Daniel Spurgeon from ebm-papst. Air is sucked in by fans in the outer circuit, creating cold water. This is used in the inner heat exchanger to create cool circulatory air for the inner air conditioning circuit. The inner and outer circuits are completely separated from each other. In order to keep the system as efficient as possible, Ergatec went on the search for compact and efficient fans. They contacted a range of manufacturers looking for suitable products. “ebm-papst called us back right away and said they wanted to take a closer look at the project with us”, explains Michael Gasser. He got in touch with Daniel Spurgeon, Area Sales Manager at Swiss subsidiary ebm-papst AG and went through the precise specifications with him.
The air conditioning module for moist areas
Outside air with a low temperature and high relative humidity flows through the outer part of the air conditioning module into the first heat exchanger (heater), where it is blown back into the room by ebm-papst fans mounted on the top side. This creates cold water, which then flows through the inner part of the air-conditioning module to the second heat exchanger (cooler) and cools the circulated warm air coming from inside the ValueShelter.
Spurgeon suggested using EC axial fans with sickle-shaped blades. As it turned out, the installation situation meant that it would be better from an energy perspective to fit two fans at each inlet and outlet instead of one. “Thanks to this redundancy and the associated larger openings, the individual fans do not have to produce as much pressure, resulting in a lower energy requirement”, says Spurgeon. “In theory, you could go for a larger fan. But in this installation situation, two smaller products were a better fit.”
“I think we will see significantly increased demand for the ValueShelter in the coming years.”
Erwin Gasser, CEO, Ergatec AG
The good conditions in the cellar and the use of EC axial fans make the ValueShelter especially efficient. Heat dissipation of the hardware components is 7,000 watts. The system requires only 300 watts to ensure the air conditioning of the ICT equipment. This ratio of total power consumption and that of the ICT equipment results in a very good PUE value* of 1.04. It is even possible to improve this value if the heat created in the outer heat exchanger (heater) is used by connecting a heat pump or boiler.
Prepared for emergencies
The ValueShelter works especially well in cold and moist cellars, thanks to its special air conditioning module. The product is the brainchild of Michael and Erwin Gasser from Ergatec, with the help of Daniel Spurgeon from ebm-papst. To protect the air conditioning system against failure, each ValueShelter has two air conditioning modules attached. “We use both modules during normal operation according to requirements. We benefit here from the excellent power consumption level of the ebm-papst fans in partial load mode”, says Michael Gasser. If one module fails, the other can assume 100 percent of the load and operation is not interrupted
The ValueShelter is also well protected against other negative external influences. The fire protection is unique for a server container of this size. As soon as a fire breaks out, the container seals itself off against heat and corrosive combustion gases by means of fire protection slide valves. The valves are closed via a so-called spring return actuator that closes the air inlets and outlets without the need for electricity. “We had the fire protection slide valves patented in the EU and the USA, as we needed to develop them in this size if we ever wanted to make the ValueShelter reality”, explains Erwin Gasser.
He is proud of the fact that, together with his son, he was able to put several ideas into action that at the start sounded unusual. This is why he is positive about the future of the ValueShelter. “Maybe our product is a little ahead of its time. I think we will see significantly increased demand in the coming years. Things like data protection laws, data security and energy efficiency are becoming more important, and we stand to gain from that.”
* The PUE value (PUE: Power Usage Effectiveness) is calculated from the quotient of the total power consumption divided by the power consumption of the ICT equipment. It helps show how efficient energy is used in a processing centre.
ebm-papst in data centres
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