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Yahoo! Japan drops UPS systems, crams batteries into servers

Fujitsu 'prefab data centers' cost less, burn less juice

A rack of Primergy servers in a prefab data center at Yahoo! Japan

Yahoo! Japan, the partnership between American search engine and internet media giant Yahoo! and Japanese telecom and internet service provider Softbank, have let server maker Fujitsu brag a little bit about some modified servers it has cooked up for the company.

And we mean a little bit. The details are a bit sketchy and intentionally so as is usually the case with any hyperscale data center operator.

Late last week, when El Reg's server hack was on holiday, Fujitsu's Japanese PR machine pumped out a press release saying that Yahoo! Japan was trialing "prefab data centers" based on tweaked versions of Fujitsu's Primergy RX200 x86 servers.

As it turns out, Yahoo! Japan has been trialing these data center designs, which are portable and which allow for iron that is long in the tooth to be rolled out of the data center in one fell swoop as a new module with shiny server iron is swapped in, since September 2011.

A rack of Primergy servers in a prefab data center at Yahoo! Japan

A rack of Primergy servers in a
prefab data center at Yahoo! Japan

The precise feeds and speeds of this prefabricated data center are not being divulged, of course. Everything that Fujitsu is being allowed to say was in this press release that was only put out in Japanese.

What Fujitsu did say is that the latest prefabbed data centers being trialed by Yahoo! Japan had 200 of its Primergy RX200 S7 rack-mounted x86 servers, each equipped with its own battery, thus allowing for the racks of servers to keep running for a reasonable amount of time in the event of a power failure in the data center.

That means Yahoo! Japan does not need to hook this prefab data center into an uninterruptible power supply and generators. Google and Facebook also rely on batteries in the server or the rack to ride out power blips.

The Primergy RX200 S7 servers being tested by Yahoo! Japan use low-power Xeon variants from Intel – Fujitsu did not say which ones – and the server is configured to automatically slow down the rotation of cooling fans to minimize energy usage. Add it all up, says Fujitsu, and the port-a-centers using the modified rack servers are 60 per cent cheaper per megawatt than

a conventional data center and have a power usage effectiveness of 1.044. The data centers are also 60 per cent less costly to build than a brick-and-mortar data center, too, and one of the reasons is that they use outside air cooling. The cooler chips might have less performance, but the performance per watt can be a lot higher. (Fujitsu and Yahoo! Japan did not brag about that, but if it were not true, then the machines would be using faster and hotter chips.)

The battery/power supply unit from the modded Primergy server used by Yahoo! Japan

The battery/power supply unit from the
modded Primergy server used by Yahoo! Japan

That PUE stat is the ratio of all the power consumed by the IT gear divided by the power coming into the data center (including juice burned by chillers, UPSes, and the stepping down of voltages). Getting it close to one is a big deal.

If you look at Google's most recent statistics on its data centers, it averages somewhere around a PUE of 1.10 across all of its centers, with the range being from a low of 1.08 to a high of 1.2.

What is not clear from the Fujitsu announcement is what these prefab data centers look like and if Yahoo! Japan plans to deploy them widely in the several data centers the Yahoo! and Softbank partnership have scattered around the Land of the Rising Sun. ®

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