Lakeland Community College data center: Built for sustainability and flexibility

ABB Ability™ Data Center Automation helps Lakeland Community College significantly lower energy use and reduce costs.

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The challenge

The college needed to reduce energy consumption, increase visibility, and improve data center operations.

The solution

Introduction of ABB Ability Data Center Automation


  • Reduced energy use by 53%

  • Lower costs

  • 100% server uptime

A need for efficient Data Center Infrastructure Management

In 2011, Lakeland Community College, Kirtland Ohio USA, moved the school’s data center to a new campus facility and out of what Chief Information Officer Rick Penny describes as “mostly just a closet with some servers and move-in cooling units.”  The school needed an all-new, sophisticated data center with more space and more configurable flexibility. The new facility also had to be energy efficient and LEED-certified as a green building. Lakeland chose ABB Ability™ Data Center Automation as its Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) solution, “And now,” Penny said, “10 years later, I don’t know what we’d do without it.”  

Since Lakeland Community College mandates that all new campus buildings be LEED-certified, one of the reasons they initially chose ABB was the evidentiary reports it was able to provide detailing energy usage. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Between FY2006 and FY2018, by focusing on sustainability and redesigning the way the heating and cooling works in its campus buildings, Lakeland Community College has been able to increase facility square footage by 18 percent while reducing its electricity use 40 percent, natural gas use 49 percent, and water/sewer usage 30 percent.

Sustainability through better insights

According to Penny, ABB Ability™ Data Center Automation has been instrumental in helping significantly lower energy use, reducing costs. For example, by being able to analyze cooling data, they determined in the first few months of operation that the data center could reduce overall air conditioning demand by adding containment walls to its server rows. Penny estimates that there is a 20- to 30-percent temperature differential inside the walled-off server containment areas as compared to outside these rows.

“We were able to shut down a big 10-ton AC unit that allowed us to save even more money than we were expecting,” Penny said.  By 2014, Lakeland’s new data center rated Silver LEED-certification status. Nearly a decade after moving into the new facility, Penny credits the ABB Ability™ Data Center Automation with helping his team reduce the facility’s energy usage by more than 53 percent.

Main facts

Data Centers  
Lakeland Community College                                
Country   USA

ABB Ability™ Data Center Automation

Rick Penny, Chief Information Officer, Lakeland Community College, credits the addition of containment walls to its server rows with helping reduce AC demand.

Collaboration with FNT Software – monitoring and alarm capabilities, planning efficiency

The increased operational visibility they got with the ABB solution, which is integrated with FNT Command from FNT Software, has also enabled Lakeland’s data center operations to more efficiently add servers and take advantage of emerging hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) technologies. While converged hardware typically is smaller in physical size and take up less space, it runs considerably hotter than traditional hardware, with power supplies often rated well above 1,000 W. (For example, a full rack of 2U-high HCI boxes could be 25-30 kW, while typical 1U servers are about 350-500 W each.) The school’s old data center didn’t have enough space to support the additional air conditioning that hyper-converged infrastructure required. 

Moving into the new facility with ABB Ability™ Data Center Automation provided operations insights that enabled them to more efficiently arrange the data center layout, as well as plan cooling configurations to better control energy usage – all without compromising service uptime.  With it, the college was positioned to take advantage of emerging data center trends and technologies over the past decade. This included shifting many of its servers to the cloud, significantly reducing the number of physical servers the center needed to cool, ultimately lowering energy cost.  

David Levine, Associate Director of Administrative Technologies for Lakeland, said that from an operations and maintenance point-of-view, ABB Ability™ Data Center Automation coupled with FNT Software, an ABB partner, has been a game changer for its monitoring and alarm capabilities and the way it improves planning efficiencies.  

 “Our air conditioner works off the water temperature and if the water temperature gets too high, it alerts us. I have temperatures of everything, including how many KW every row and every rack uses,” Levine said. “Plus, the DCIM has a water sensor around the racks so if there’s any liquid that gets on the floor there, it will alert us. It also is checking the UPS’s and monitoring the power that’s coming in.” 

“The best thing is that our server uptimes are almost 100%,” Penny added. “Things happen in the data center just because there are physical components. But now, we get alarm notifications and can resolve issues before these things can become a disaster.”  

More possibilities

Plus, using the system, Levine said his operators can more efficiently track inventory of all the data center racks and easily know what the impact’s going to be to the system before adding something new. 
“Before we had to go through spreadsheets,” said Levine. “Now, when you know what the model number is, you can pop it in there and can virtually see how much power it’s going to use and how much more air conditioning will be needed.”  

What’s next for the Lakeland Community College data center? in the next 18 to 24 months, Penny and Levine plan to capitalize on the efficiencies they are getting from  the ABB Ability™ Data Center Automation system and hyper-converged infrastructure to reduce the data center footprint by 50- to 66-percent of its current size.  

“We are looking forward to finding more energy savings,” Penny said. “Even though we are containing it better with the cold aisles now, the data center itself is still a fairly large space. So, if I can take half to two-thirds of that space away, that’s less space that we have to cool.”  

With ABB Ability™ Data Center Automation, the school can more efficiently track inventory of all data center racks to know in advance how adding something new will impact the system.

David Levine, Associate Director of Administrative Technologies, Lakeland Community College.

Looking ahead, the school plans to capitalize on the efficiencies they are getting to downsize the data center and find more energy savings.

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