I love Texas. I wasn’t born here but as the saying goes, “I got here as fast as I could”. Perhaps the only drawback I can think of to being a citizen of the Lone Star State is that for a few months of the year it can be a bit “uncomfortable”. In other words it gets hot, really hot, Africa hot. If Tarzan lived here even he’d say, “Cheetah, it’s hot”. Based on this climate challenged environment one would assume that any data center located in the state would have to be cooled using a chiller plant that proves the maxim “that everything is bigger in Texas”. A reasonable assumption? Absolutely. A correct one? Absolutely not. In fact, whether your data center is in Houston or Nashville you can cool it effectively, and with lower on-going costs using airside economization.
Now some of you out there are probably expressing your disbelief by using a popular euphemism for bovine excrement, and the less skeptical among you are saying to yourselves, “Okay, I might give you Nashville. But Houston?” In both cases your concerns would be understandable as some locales are burdened by climatological preconceptions. I must confess that we labored under these same presumptions as we designed our standalone data center product. However, our evaluation of various cooling alternatives demonstrated that there was no area of the country that outside air could not be used to cool a data center. In Houston, for example, over 3600 hours of the year are suitable for the use of free air.
The primary difference in the use of outside air across different climatic regions is PUE. For example, when we compared Santa Clara and Houston under the assumptions that both facilities were operating at 75° (within ASHRAE 9.9 standards) and using full containment we found the differences in PUE (Santa Clara-1.18 and Houston-1.55) to be less than one might think. These results demonstrate that virtually no market in the country cannot support free air thereby offering data center uses a more cost effective cooling alternative to the use of water-based cooling systems. Note: If you’d like to see the performance in a market of your choice feel free to use our PUE calculator at https://www.compassdatacenters.com/low-pue/.
A recent article in USA Today entitled “Drought Condition Spreads Over USA” confirmed what many of us have probably already surmised water is currently at a premium. In fact, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor 61% of the 48 contiguous states are in “abnormally dry” or drought conditions. The six major data center markets (NY/NJ, N. Virginia, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco and Phoenix) all fall within these areas. So what can this mean for a new data center? Depending on the severity of the drought conditions planning approvals for sites seeking to use water-based methods could be delayed, returned for modification or, in the worst case, turned down. The other potential ramification is escalating water rates. For systems that use a million or so gallons of water per year this can definitely have a detrimental effect to your operational budget.
From a customer perspective, the ability to use free air cooling regardless of the desired market catalyzes their ability to locate their new data centers where they need them and not in only a select few markets. This water independent level of flexibility unshackles markets that traditionally were not viewed as “good” data center locales due to the “extreme” nature of their weather. In other words, even if it is 104° in Houston your data center will be just fine.