"In today's data center industry, service providers are always looking for new approaches for structure design. Recently, we've seen data centers created from repurposed buildings, as well as those established underground. Now, the Oregon Health and Science University has utilized a new design element for its data center: a geodesic dome.
According to Portland Business Journal contributor Elizabeth Hayes, the structure - which some note resembles a spaceship - is situated on 185th Avenue in Beaverton, Oregon, and began operating in July 2014.
Since then, the project has garnered much attention, including from Datacenter Knowledge contributor Yevgeniy Sverdlik.
""Structural stability is a valued goal in data center design, but the idea of building a data center shell using a spherical skeleton that consists of great circles intersecting to form a series of triangles - the most stable shape we know of - is novel,"" Sverdlik said.
Geodesic Dome Data Center Details
Overall, the project cost the organization $22 million to construct. Inside, the dome data center is made up of 10 pods in a radial arrangement surrounding a central core that houses the facility's network distribution hub. This internal design means that every pod is equal distance from the center core, ensuring the shortest distance possible for each network cable.
The dome also provides the space for additional pods - each of which is 30 feet long and 4 feet wide - to house more equipment should expansion be needed. Thanks to the pods' construction, each can house taller stacks, allowing for 52 racks to reside in the pod, instead of the traditional 42. Overall, the dome has the capacity to hold 166 server racks.
What Caused OHSU to Choose the Dome Design?
Perry Gliessman, OHSU IT Group director of technology and advanced computing, noted that there were several factors that caused the organization to choose the geodesic dome design, including the group's specific needs for the facility.
During the design, OHSU aimed to create a structure that would house its computing gear, which needed 25 kilowatts per rack as an average power density. Datacenter Knowledge noted that the average colocation data center utilizes less than 5 kilowatts per rack, so OHSU had their work cut out for them. Sverdlik pointed out that Gliessman and the OHSU group had more than the typical data center design challenges in this project.
""[Gliessman] needed to design something that would support extreme power densities, but he also wanted to have economy of space, while using as much free cooling as he could get, which meant maximizing outside-air intake and exhaust surface area,"" Sverdlik wrote. ""A dome structure, he realized, would tick all the boxes he needed to tick.""
Benefits of Geodesic Dome for Data Center Design
Hayes wrote that the ""Data Dome"" leverages a free air cooling system, and doesn't have air conditioning units installed at all. This considerably reduces the amount of energy the data center consumes, as one of the most power-heavy components within a data center is the cooling system. This makes OHSU's geodesic dome data center one of the most sustainable today, as it utilizes only half of the electricity of a typical computing facility.
In fact, the ambient air cooling means the data center has no air ducts or raised floors and instead leverages server fans to push cool air through computing equipment. Warm air then naturally raises into the exhaust plenum due to its inherent buoyancy.
Gliessman even has a plan in place for the cooler months, when heating becomes a more demanding need. During these times, the heat created by the computing equipment itself will be leveraged to warm the dome.
The design also offers stability to protect internal equipment from inclement weather, ensuring that servers housing the group's important data are safe during any conditions."