Vapor IO this week announced another step toward a greener data center environment -- a partnership with Bloom Energy, a solid oxide fuel cell technology firm that will provide on-site power generation. Together, the two partners say they can save between 40% and 50% of the capex and opex needed for data centers at the edge of the network, beginning in early 2016.
Vapor IO , a new data center company founded by veterans of the data center world and Open Compute Project, builds what it calls intelligent, hyper-modular data centers, featuring the Vapor Chamber, a patent-pending design. Among the innovations the company promises is a fundamentally different approach to providing the cooler air required by electronics equipment that is both sensitive to, and the generator of, high levels of heat. Instead of using extensive air-conditioning and building the data center with "hot" and "cold" aisles, as is traditionally done, Vapor IO makes use of air velocity and air volume to create an overall data center temperature that is safe for electronics but is much more cost-effective, hence the capex and opex savings, says Cole Crawford, co-founder and CEO. (See Vapor Pushes Data Centers to the Edge.)
The company has other innovations as well, including analytics that determine the best space for a given workload to run at a specific time and extensive use of open source technology, but this week's news is focused on the "green" aspect of Vapor IO's edge data center solution. Telecom and cloud service providers aren't its only target market, but they represent a critical piece of business and one that is growing rapidly, says Crawford, who was founding executive director of the Open Compute project.
What Vapor IO does, rather than rely on massive cooling, is create a central exhaust cell, and constantly pull air out through that cell, which also forces air up into vapor chambers within the data center. Crawford says the effect is something akin to a tornado.
"We constantly pull air out -- there is no such thing as a hot and cold aisle in Vapor data center," he explains. "Everything outside of the rack is your cold aisle and we pull the air through to a central exhaust cell, or CEC, and the CEC forces air up into vapor chambers that are all facing each other. So we create a high-pressure, low-pressure system, just like a tornado. All that hot air is contained inside the very small space [the CEC]. Everything on the outside is your ambient temperature."
That ambient temperature is significantly warmer than in the average data center -- "We don't hand out winter jackets to do data center tours," Crawford jokes -- but the result is lower cost of cooling and less floor space used, as well. Air is constantly moved across servers.
Partnering with Bloom enables Vapor IO to add a greener, renewable energy source to its more efficient data center story, he says. Bloom's solid oxide fuel cells can run on natural gas or other types of gas and make use of their own by-products in a self-sustaining process you can see here. It's even possible to funnel the "waste heat" pulled from the data centers in Vapor IO's cooling process to the fuel cells.
"We can use 100% of waste heat to go to the fuel cells, eliminating additional equipment that we would have to employ to get rid of that heat," Crawford says. "Of course you could just throw it out into the atmosphere. This was a really cool way to tell a carbon neutral data center story with our physical chamber and the Bloom box."
The resulting solution fits well at the edge of a network or in a colocation space -- spots where data centers are increasingly needed, both to store video content and support cloud services. Crawford says the telecom sector is one of his company's major growth segments.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading