© Photo | ebm-papst / Isabelle Schönholzer, istockphoto/herraez

Protecting your data

Compact, protected against fire and break-ins and with excel­lent air condi­tioning – the ValueShelter protects servers holding sensi­tive data. But the hardware’s energy-effi­cient cooling really comes into its own in a cold and damp cellar

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.

Closed circuit

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 redun­dant air condi­tioning module ensures that the ValueShelter is always kept cool.

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.


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