Herakles Data had outgrown the capacity of its existing chillers and needed additional capacity that could meet the demands of its mission-critical interior space and ambient temperatures that typically reach 95°F during the summer. A modular central plan provided a solution to this demand and then some.


Positioning itself as the ultimate data center, Herakles Data of Sacramento, CA, offers uninterruptible power, improved cooling, and redundant Internet bandwidth to its co-location customers seeking to outsource their primary or disaster recovery IT infrastructure. At a collocation data center, corporations rent specific spaces to operate their data servers alongside the servers of other companies in a common physical location.
Given the heat-generating critical servers housed in the facility, cooling is critical for the data center. “Cooling is the number two essential factor after uninterrupted power for our customers,” said Laurence Stancil, director of facilities at Herakles Data.

Added Herakles data president and CEO Lou Kirchner, “Customers have come to us after leaving a previous data center because cooling was inadequate or unreliable. And with the newer servers being more powerful and more compact than ever, they produce even more heat. With our facility near 100% capacity, it’s critical that our cooling capacity be able to handle the heat of the newest generation of servers.”

Herakles Data’s rapid business growth meant that it had outgrown the capacity of its existing four air cooled McQuay chillers. It needed additional capacity that could meet the demands of its mission-critical interior space and ambient temperatures that typically reach 95°F during the summer. “Under California’s Title 24 standards, we couldn’t add a fifth chiller to meet our growing capacity needs, so we had to consider alternatives outside the box,” said Stancil. “Our number one requirement in selecting a new system was speed. The new cooling system had to be installed and operating as fast as possible, with minimal interruption to our cooling requirements.”

A pre-engineered, pre-assembled solution

Working with representatives from Norman Wright Mechanical Equipment Corporation, the McQuay representative in Sacramento, the facility team from Herakles Data evaluated alternative solutions and selected McQuay modular central plants. Modular central plants are pre-engineered and pre-assembled from one supplier with the chiller, pumps, cooling tower, and interconnected piping, and then shipped to the jobsite for final assembly. Their unique modular configuration reduces site assembly time.

Although he had a long working relationship with McQuay, Stancil was initially skeptical of the modular central plant concept. The installation process made him a believer. “Our first four modular central plants were dropped, bolted and wired - fully assembled - in a week. I’d compare it to changing a propeller in flight,” Stancil said. “You have to get it right the first time. And we did. Final site assembly was a very clean process - fast, easy, and efficient.”

It was so fast and easy that Stancil now prefers the modular central plant concept to the traditional site-built central cooling plant. “I would never do it the old way again,” he said.

Kirchner was especially pleased that the one-week installation process resulted in zero downtime for the data center saying, “It was seamless for our customers.” Since June 2007, a total of six McQuay Modular Central Plants have provided chilled water to 59 computer room air conditioning units in the 52,500-sq-foot data center. Each of the modules consists of a 500-ton McQuay centrifugal compressor water chiller pre-engineered and pre-assembled with pumps, piping, cooling tower, control panel, and associated water treatment system.

Kirchner’s original goal of increased cooling capacity to meet Herakles Data’s projected growth was not only achieved, but also surpassed. “We provide N+1 business solutions for our customers, meaning we meet their needs plus provide redundancy,” he said. “Today, however, we have surpassed that goal because we typically run only two of the four original modular central plants. That results in 2N cooling capacity today available to our data center customers.”



Energy savings a bonus

In addition to fast-track construction and commissioning, the new McQuay central plants resulted in impressive energy savings compared to the old system. “Our old system used 3,600 kWh/ton a day; the new system uses 2,800 kWh/ton a day for a 22% reduction in energy,” Stancil said. That reduced energy usage earned Herakles Data a $50,000 rebate from the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.

With the energy savings, the benefits of the McQuay modular central plant extend beyond the initial benefits of the fast, easy installation. “Those energy savings were a very good bonus,” Stancil said. ES