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Greg MacSweeney
Greg MacSweeney
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Centercore: A New Flexible Datacenter Approach

Rather than build massive datacenters that take years to fill, Fidelity Investments has developed Centercore, an incremental, standards-based datacenter design.

Centercore, a flexible datacenter design created by Fidelity Investments, allows enterprise organizations to build out datacenters in smaller 500-kilowatt increments. This approach differs from a traditional datacenter build out where the entire datacenter is built at once, leaving space for future growth.

The incremental design, according to Fidelity, can save 10% to 15% on construction costs alone.

Fidelity's Raleigh Centercore Deployment

Centercore’s stacked structure reduces a facility footprint, allowing organizations to install more computing power on less real estate. This multi-story facility has the power on the lower level, the data hall in the middle and the cooling on the top level. Centercore is being used at Fidelity locations to expand their traditional (raised-floor) datacenter facilities.

This Centercore facility is attached to an existing datacenter to supplement the main center’s existing compute capacity. This facility is 7,000 total square feet with 2,000 square feet of open white space raised floor area for technology equipment. It provides 500 kilowatts of redundant power, and is 30% more energy efficient than the existing data centers. It has been live in production since the end of 2012.

A Datacenter That Grows

Centercore provides responsive growth potential with proven flexibility to different configurations & technology advancements, while preserving the stability, resiliency and functionality of a traditional data center.

This core production facility will grow in 1 Megawatt increments. Several buildings can be fitted together: panels are then removed from the walls to create a contiguous space without the need to re-commission the initial space, as there is no shared infrastructure between new and old. Each section will be built to provide a different resiliency and/or power density, and incorporate advancements in infrastructure technology along the way.

Using this platform, the data center can grow up to a capacity of 8 Megawatts of redundant power for technology. Each facility addition has independent power and cooling infrastructure, providing added resiliency and mitigating risks associated with centralized systems typical of traditional facilities.

1,000s of Decisions

Although the structure of Centercore allows for incremental growth and future flexibility, many decisions about its design were made ahead of time, according to Eric Wells, VP, data center services, at Fidelity Investments. Fidelity IT and facilities experts sat down and made "literally thousands of decisions" and eventually developed a datacenter that can be built in stages, off-site, and then moved into place, Wells says.

Companies using the Centercore design are making their own decisions about the power and cooling infrastructure components, as well as the technology deployed in the datacenter, such as servers, switches, storage and networking.

Exterior Shell

Centercore’s robust steel support structure is integrated with the building shell. There are no roof penetrations. Pipes and other infrastructure components are run down within the exterior skin to minimize potential water leaks. For this facility, the structure and external skin is weather resistive to wind speeds up to 165 mile per hour, and seismic considerations above local code requirements.

Faster, And Cheaper

Centercore is constructed off-site with redundant power and cooling capacity for up to 1 Megawatt of IT equipment and 7,000 square feet of open white space for equipment. When reassembled on-site, the build team set, bolted, and roofed 30 core units to a weather tight condition in 15 work days.

The off-site building process and standardize format allows Centercore to be built much faster, and cheaper, than a traditional datacenter, Fidelity says. "Traditionally, you would take 18 months to build your own facility," Higgins notes. "We can do it in six months, and 10% to 15% cheaper than regular construction." In addition, if a firm were to build a traditional facility, it would likely "overbuild" for the current needs, resulting in stranded investments until the technology demand catches up to facility supply.

This prefabricated Centercore unit is being lifted into place.

Datacenter Best Practices

The Centercore specifications include spacious and secure circulation/support areas. There are minimal columns in the IT space so it can be configured in a variety of ways to accommodate all types of IT kits. Having a raised floor is optional. There are no real limitations on ceiling heights. The position of the equipment is flexible as well.

Datacenter Legos

The Centercore datacenter is reassembled at the final location in less than two weeks. Here is one section of the datacenter being lifted and fit into place. Note: vents in the floor provide cooling, while wires and cables are stored overhead in racks so they don’t impede airflow from under the floor. When complete, it has the same look, feel and function of a traditional building facility.

Incremental Build Outs

Although the incremental design of Centercore is different than a traditional datacenter build out, many of the tools and best practices of other datacenters are found in Centercore. For instance, in this image you can see accessible overhead IT racks with power monitoring, and traditional data hall hot and cold aisles between the server racks.

Planning For The Future?

While a company's executives may know what their datacenter needs are today and in the near future, it is difficult to predict what future capacity demands will be. Centercore's allows for future expansion. In this image removable panels on the exterior allow for future capacity expansions.

Bolt-On Datacenter

With Centercore's small footprint, it can be deployed next to most facilities. The Centercore design aims to keep the power and cooling gear as close to the IT equipment as possible, to minimize footprint and infrastructure distribution for cabling, cooling and conduit, thus reducing cost while improving reliability. In this artist’s image, Centercore is placed next to an existing office building with a facade treatment that compliments existing architecture.

Centercore In Action

Fidelity Investments is already putting Centercore to use. Here is Fidelity’s Centercore Tier 4 facility in Raleigh, NC, commissioned and operational in 2012. This design platform has already garnered two top industry innovation awards for next-generation data center design, including the 2013 CoreNet Global Industry Excellence Award and the 2013 DatacenterDynamics North American Award for Innovation in the Medium Data Center.


Greg MacSweeney is editorial director of InformationWeek Financial Services, whose brands include Wall Street & Technology, Bank Systems & Technology, Advanced Trading, and Insurance & Technology. View Full Bio

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