Jurgen Caeyman explained that CERN has a big problem in managing the amount of data which is generated from the experiments, very close to the collisions. With the upgrade which is going to come as of 2020, two of the experiments - LHCb and ALICE - will require an increase in the processing capacity at the data acquisition site. The researchers at CERN are changing their strategy and at the same time they want to acquire more data, so they can better measure the information. Automation looked at various solutions in terms of transporting these 40 Terabits of data that the experiments are generating to a central data centre. They decided to go for a different solution. Automation is going to bring the processing and the data acquisition on top of the experiments themselves. In this way, they reduce the amount of cost they will spend on the data transmission. They actually do the processing of the data very close to where the data is being generated.
The CERN people created an RFQ - a Request for Offer/Quote - in which they were quite open in terms of the solution being proposed but they wanted to have a prefabricated data centre, allowing to be easily deployed on the site. In that process, Automation, a Belgian company, which has been doing this type of solution for twenty years, submitted an offer, consisting of a total of twelve modules - ten IT modules and two power modules, which are distributed over the two sites. Automation won the RFQ based on its technical solution. The technical solution itself consists of SAFE - Secure, Autonomous, Flexible and Efficient - data centre modules. This is the Automation concept and solution. One of the engineering concepts is that the units were brought on site. They have to be installed within one day. This reduces the work on site which reduces the cost and increases the efficiency of the deployment.
This, however, has an impact on the construction, on how the modules are built. This makes the Automation solution specific. The company has combined in its solution indirect evaporative cooling from Stulz. The cooling aspect is very important because one is looking at power dissipations of 2 megawatts of IT load so one needs to have a very efficient solution. One of the requirements CERN with the two experiments has imposed on Automation is to have a power usage efficiency (PUE) of below 1,10. With indirect evaporative cooling which Automation has developed in collaboration with its partner Stulz, the company actually is at PUEs for the region of Geneva of below 1.10. The company is at 1,05/1,06 on the calculations and Jurgen Caeyman hopes that in practice this will be the case.
Currently, Automation is in production of the units. The first installation will happen end of August in Geneva. That will be for ALICE. Shortly thereafter, the company will start the second installation at LHCb, so the two projects are being run in parallel. By November of 2019 both sites will be completely installed. On both sites, they will have about 2 megawatts of IT load. This is just ahead of the upgrade for the long shutdown to be prepared to accept new data in 2021.
Primeur Magazine:An artist impression of what you will build at CERN is being shown in your booth. What do we see there?
Jurgen Caeyman:Correct. You can see six SAFE IT modules. On the far end, you can see a little unit, which is the power module. In this solution, what are the technical challenges the company has? Automation has to bring 4000 amps in the power distribution and distribute this to the different modules. That is one challenge but also, when you use indirect evaporative cooling, you need to reverse osmosis water. Therefore, Automation has integrated in the power unit a reverse osmosis plant which generates reverse osmosis water to use in the indirect evaporative cooling systems. These are mounted on top of the units. This is a co-engineering project with Stulz. There are very little losses in air pressure when the air is going in and out of the unit. The company uses a very simple hot-aisle/cold-aisle containment solution in the bottom modules where the racks are situated.
Primeur Magazine:So the racks are in the middle of the module?
Jurgen Caeyman:Yes. Each module is half a megawatt of capacity. The modules are in between. They are basically separated with a hot-aisle/cold-aisle containment. Automation is able to host between 18 to 24 high-density racks inside the unit.
Primeur Magazine:Just to have an idea, the height is between 2,5 and 3 metres?
Jurgen Caeyman:No. One of the things the company has done is to abandon containers. A container is not wide enough. The idea of putting IT into a container is very good because you can transport a lot of things but the size of a container is not good enough. You need wider and longer. These units are like 18 meters long, 4 meters wide, 3,30 meters high, and on top of these there are the cooling units which are again 3 meters, so one is at 6 meters height in total. One of these units is designed to be installed within one day. The Automation team arrives with a truck. There is a crane which puts the bottom with the IT module down. The air cooling units are easily installed and connected. Within one day, everything is operational. The company can achieve this because the team performs a full factory acceptance test at the factory under conditions, so everything is nicely tested before it goes to the site.
Primeur Magazine:Thank you very much for this interview.