A Breath of Fresh Air
Data centers suck up a lot of power—much of which is devoted to
keeping servers cool. So it was with great fanfare that tech giant HP
unveiled its first entirely air-cooled data center in February. Located in
blustery Wynyard, England, the 33,445-square-meter (360,000-
square-foot) facility is equipped with eight 2.1-meter ( 6.9-foot) fans to
create one of the world’s most energy-efficient data centers.
SPACE IS LIMITED
The project was built to complement an existing data center directly
to the north. Site options were severely limited, though. “If you went
too far east, you hit the North Sea; too far north, you are in the flight
path of Newcastle Airport,” explains Maurice Julian, facilities project
director at HP UK. There was a potential site to the west, but it was
largely rural and without power, so the team focused on a small southern quadrant for the final build-out.
FEAR OF REJECTION
Project leaders considered choosing a greenfield
site that had adequate power, but deemed it was
too risky. “We could have gone through 13 weeks of
meetings and still been refused permission to build
on the site by local governing bodies,” Mr. Julian
says. Given the tight schedule, the team abandoned
£ 2. 1 million
annual cost savings
at Wynyard compared
to the average
The reduction in
SAFE AND SECURE
The team chose a warehouse originally
built as a distribution center, but revamping
a site brought its own challenges.
“We had to strengthen the existing concrete slabs in the floor so it could support
the weight of the walls and server racks,”
Mr. Julian says.
There were also security concerns.
Stakeholders, including some high-profile
government clients, would need to feel
confident their information was protected.
“We realized halfway through the project
that we needed to raise the bar a bit to
make the facility secure physically,” says
John Finlayson, data center manager at
In addition to building high walls
around the perimeter, construction crews
strengthened interior walls by reinforcing
them with steel.
AROUND THE CLOCK
Delayed delivery of onsite power and
extensive mechanical prototyping necessary for such a cutting-edge facility threw
off scheduling. To make up for lost time,
the project team had to go into 24/7 work
mode for approximately 12 weeks.
“We got up to having as many as 500
people per day on the site,” Mr. Julian
says. Ramping up the staff allowed the
team to make its initial delivery date for the
building at the end of September 2009.
The data network was then completed
in December, and the next month HP
began migrating services to the Wynyard
facility. Now the company is already considering expanding the center. “The new
business pipeline looks healthy, so potentially within the next 18 months, we could
start the next phase of construction,” Mr.
Other eco-friendly aspects of the project include harvesting rainwater for use within the building and saving about 40 percent
on lighting by opting for pale-colored server racks rather than the traditional black. Other companies are following HP’s lead:
Earlier this year, Facebook announced plans for its first-ever green data center.
IN THE LEAD