Lakeland Community College data center takes the LEED with help from ABB’s DCIM solution

Lakeland Community College data center takes the LEED with help from ABB’s DCIM solution

ABB Ability Data Center Automation delivers energy savings in addition to the data and reporting needed for LEED certification.

Data centers are categorized by their size in power use and availability how many “nines” beyond 99% (i.e., Tier 1 through Tier 4), but there are many facilities that fall outside this model.  Call it a server room or the even more quaint “computer room”—small facilities owned and operated by the entity they serve.

“Mostly just a closet with some servers and move-in cooling units.”

That’s how Rick Penny, Chief Information Officer at Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, Ohio, described the school’s data center circa 2011. At that time, it was clear the school needed an all-new, modern 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 according to institutional policy.

Adopting LEED standards has delivered impressive results for Lakeland. Between FY2006 and FY2018, Lakeland Community College was 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.

For its new data center, Lakeland chose ABB Ability™ Data Center Automation as its Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) solution.

“Now 10 years later, I don’t know what we’d do without it,” says Penny.

One example: by being able to analyze cooling data, Lakeland 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, creating a 20- to 30-percent temperature differential inside the walled-off server containment areas as compared to the rest of the room.

“We were able to shut down a big 10-ton AC unit and 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 ABB Ability Data Center Automation with helping his team reduce the facility’s energy usage by more than 53 percent.

Penny and his team also leveraged the system to optimize equipment layout and cooling configurations to better control energy use without compromising service uptime. The ABB system has also allowed the college to take advantage of emerging data center trends and technologies. This included shifting many of its applications to the cloud, significantly reducing the number of physical servers the center needed to operate and cool, further lowering energy cost.

David Levine, Associate Director of Administrative Technologies for Lakeland, said that from an operations and maintenance standpoint, 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.

“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.”

Plus, Levine said his operators can more efficiently track inventory of all the data center racks and easily know what the impact is going to be to the system before adding something new.

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.

“We are looking forward to finding more energy savings,” Penny said, adding that “the best thing is that our server uptimes are almost 100%. 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.”


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