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Cisco has launched its first purpose-built data center in Allen, Texas. The facility, along with another one located about 20 miles away, will support a private-cloud infrastructure, allowing Cisco's IT department to provide IT-as-a-Service to the company's employees, partners and customers.

Cisco CIO Rebecca Jacoby said the new facility was part of a strategy the company developed about 2.5 years ago. Until that point, the company had not had a long-term infrastructure strategy that involved a purpose-built data center.

"We really needed to come at it with a different strategy for the business," Jacoby said about the 10-year strategy in a live webcast. "The idea was that we really need to have something that really takes us far into the future."

Cisco's private cloud is called CITEIS, or Cisco IT Elastic Infrastructure Services. Much of the architecture is built using the company's own portfolio of data center products, including its Unified Compute System and network switches.

John Manville, Cisco's VP of IT, network and data center services, said the data center will work in tandem with another facility in Richardson, Texas, in an active-active configuration. Cisco calls this topology, used only for the most critical applications, Metro Virtual Data Center (MVDC).

Because running applications using the MVDC failover strategy is expensive, Manville's team analyzed all applications it would be supporting and rated them based on criticality. Only applications at the top of the list were set up using active-active configuration.

The data center provides 5.2MW of critical load to the IT equipment. Two 10MW feeds bring utility power to the facility. Power back-up systems include flywheel-based UPS systems.

There are two data halls inside the 38,000-sq-ft facility. Each data hall provides 16,000 sq ft of data center space. "We plan on this data center lasting  between three and seven years" before it needs to be expanded, Manville said.

The data center's cooling system uses an uncommon design, were cold air is pushed from the top down instead of being delivered to the front of racks from the bottom, through perforated tiles in a raised floor.

No hot exhaust air ends up on the data center floor. It leaves each rack through a chimney at the top, going to the cooling system directly.

The system incorporates an airside economizer. According to Manville, "56% of the time we can use free air cooling from outside."

One of the reasons Cisco is able to use so much free cooling is the operating air temperature on the data center floor, which is kept at 76-78F.

The company has migrated more than half of all applications into the Richardson and Allen data centers, Jacoby said. The organization has started migrating some of the most critical applications to the sites only recently and has already seen "a tremendous improvement in performance" of these applications, she said.