PHOTO TOUR: Inside Equinix' latest Silicon Valley data center

Published on 28th May 2013 by Yevgeniy Sverdlik

As far as retail colo providers are concerned, Equinix is undoubtedly the biggest out there. In addition to being the biggest, the company is known for making the interiors of its data centers look and feel like being in the hallways of Death Star.

 

Shiny lights aside, the world's largest colo provider has also gotten very good at energy efficient design. Its newest LEED-Silver-certified Silicon Valley facility (SV5 in San Jose, California) is a showcase for a lot of the wisdom Equinix has acquired over the 15 years it has been around, but it is also a proving ground for a few things the company has never tried before.

 

Raouf Abdel, the company's regional operating chief for the Americas, took me on a tour of SV5 earlier this week together with Keith Patterson, IBX operations manager.

 

Here are the highlights:

 

 

No mission-critical facility, of course, is complete without a videogame arcade, and SV5 delivers on this front. 

 

 

 

A typical Equinix aisle: slick dim lighting, cage walls, overhead cable trays. Nearly everything is overhead One thing Abdel claims Equinix has invented for its colo cages and other companies have since picked up are the placement of demarcation panels and PDUs on a sidewall of a cage, instead of within the server-rack row. This, obviously, saves space.

 

This is in the first 35,000 sq ft phase of SV5. The phase provides 12MW of power, 3MW of which is redundant. Most of this space has been leased out and the majority of Phase II, which is just being built out now, has been spoken for as well, Abdel says. The second phase will provide nearly 30,000 sq ft of data center space.

 

 

A not-so-gentle reminder that Equinix does not mix hot and cold. While there's no containment in the facility, the separation of hot and cold aisles is religiously guarded. The facility has no raised floor (no Equinix data center does) and cold air is delivered from overhead ducts. Convection alone carries hot air toward the ceiling, where it is sucked into roof-top cooling units, which push it back to the data center floor after bringing its temperature down.

 

 

Roof-top cooling units use fans to push cold air to the data center floor.

 

 

Keith Patterson, IBX operations manager (left), and Raouf Abdel, regional operating chief for the Americas, on the roof of SV5.

 

 

Another Equinix innovation is a mezzanine level right above the data center floor. This is where UPS systems live, instead of taking up an entire room on the main level as they do in traditional data center designs.

 

 

DC rectifiers, mostly for telecom equipment, also live on the mezzanine level.

 

 

The interconnect room. This, in a way, is the heart of the facility, as non-remarkable as it may look. This is where carriers, service providers, enterprise users and other tenants get access to more than 90 carriers in the SV1 facility next door. The only Equinix data center in the Valley that has more carriers is SV8 in Palo Alto, also known as PAIX (originally decoded as Palo Alto Internet eXchange, and today meaning Peering And Internet eXchange). SV8, which provides access to several hundred carriers, used to be operated by Switch and Data, a company Equinix bought in 2009.

 

 

A first for Equinix is the use of a refrigerant-based cooling system at SV5. This system pumps oil which in turn pushes refrigerant fluid through heat exchangers.

 

 

Oil pumps are delivered and installed on skids, which adds an element of modularity to expansion of the cooling system's capacity.

 

 

Massive amounts of switchgear. Through the black circular covers, technicians can get access inside to test the systems instead of the traditional approach of using infrared scanners. The presence of two engineers is required to turn one of these, or any other piece of equipment in the building, off.

 

 

Hundreds of miles of electrical conduit extend up and down from this room.

 

 

There are four of these 3MW CAT generators, or "big-ass engines", as Abdel calls them, in the facility at the moment. Three of them provide 9MW of critical power and the fourth one provides a redundant 3MW of backup capacity.

 

There is room for plenty more, as the building's total square footage is 130,000, which is also expandable by another 30,000 sq ft.

 

Media companies, content providers, network providers, cloud providers and financial-services companies host their gear in SV5. High-quality colocation space is still very much a valuable commodity in the Silicon Valley, and there is no shortage of demand for space at Equinix' newest facility here, Abdel says.

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Yevgeniy is a San Francisco-based journalist who has covered the data center industry for DatacenterDynamics since June 2009. Prior to that, he was a local daily newspaper reporter in California. He has a degree in journalism from San Francisco State University.