New computing center saves green by being green
An Orem company unveiled a huge computing facility in West Valley City on Wednesday, touting it as the greenest in the state and on par with Google's most efficient centers.
Voonami Inc. said soon it will be serving large and small customers from the center at the edge of Interstate 215 with a state-of-the-art facility that uses an old technology to cool it.
Providing the chill is a giant evaporative cooler, similar to swamp coolers that have been in use in dry climates since the beginning of the 20th century. The cooler, along with other engineering innovations, are expected to trim energy costs by 80 percent over a typical giant data center, said Voonami president Ben Bush.
"When you talk about an 80 percent difference in power, it's a big difference," said Bush. "We're paying 80 percent less than the competition."
Utah is host to a number of such centers that sell computing power to other companies, which often find that contracting is less costly and gives them more flexibility.
Voonami was hatched in 2006 out of ThinkAtomic, the incubator of companies started by Ralph Yarro after he and the Canopy Group had a stormy parting in 2005.
Yarro said the company's initial computing center, in Orem, was started in part to serve ThinkAtomic and its start-ups.
The new center in West Valley City "is built specially for high-end, green data center services," said Yarro, the chair and CEO of Voonami.
Eight months of the year the water used to cool the facility is chilled solely by dropping it through cooling towers outside the building.
"We get what we call free cool, where you're using the environment to cool your system," Yarro said.
Besides the giant water cooler, the cooling system design by Mechanical Service & Systems Inc. of Midvale also pushes a constant flow of cool air into the facility through the floor so it is more uniformly distributed and hot spots eliminated. In addition, plastic sheeting ensures that the cool air does not mix with the air that has been warmed as it passes over the electronic equipment, a design that also means less energy is needed for cooling.
"This way it's focused," said Bill Gast, an Mechanical Service & Systems engineer who worked on the project. "We contain the hot air" that is siphoned away to be cooled again and returned to the room.
Beyond the cooling system, Voonami also is offering a distinctive browser-based system to manage the computers that can be used from computers outside the facility and even from a smart phone. That system was developed by Sumavi, another company being launched by ThinkAtomic.
"I can grab a copy of Windows Server and drop it on this group icon that represents hundreds of servers and they'll be up within 30 seconds, hundreds of servers running that Windows OS and ready for deployment," said Bush.
Voonami has a contract to run the computers for a company that supplies security applications to Facebook, along with other companies he declined to name.
Gast said the National Security Agency, which soon will be building a giant data center at Fort Williams, has toured the Voonami facility to view the cooling system. On Wednesday, state government representatives also showed interest in the system for the state's data center.
Registered in 2006. It came out of ThinkAtomic, a company founded in 2005 by Ralph Yarro to incubate start-up ventures. Voonami operates giant computer data centers that sell services to other companies.
Sumavi, also being launched by ThinkAtomic., provides software and appliances for managing large clusters of computer servers