Telecommunications

Telefonica: A Digital Telco Journey

Tier 4 data centers by nature use a significant amount of electricity, the result of all the redundancy built in to create reliability. So it stands to reason that if you’re going to build a Tier 4 data center, you want to take whatever steps you can to ensure energy efficiency.

That’s exactly what the Spanish telecommunications provider Telefónica did when it built a new Tier 4 data center a few years ago in Alcalá de Henares, Spain. At the time it was one of the largest data centers in the world, intended to help the company consolidate operations from a number of smaller data centers.

The Alcalá data center supports numerous internal and external customers, from public administrations, large retail chains, logistics and media companies, financial institutions, insurance companies and hotel groups. It offers separate rooms for some customers, each independently certified as Tier IV Gold.

Achieving Tier IV Gold status means meeting strict guidelines around reliability. As explained in this previous post, achieving reliability typically means you need more infrastructure to create a 2N or 2(N+1) design. That means, for example, that you have two (or more) UPSs backing up the same IT loads, just in case one fails. The same goes for cooling systems, IT equipment and more. It all adds up to a lot of infrastructure, and all of it requires power.

So in designing its Alcalá data center, Telefónica paid close attention to ensuring energy efficiency, along with water consumption, CO2 emissions and more.

The strategy worked. Take energy efficiency, for example. The data center’s power usage effectiveness (PUE) rating is between 1.3 and 1.4. That would be respectable for even a Tier 1 data center, but for a Tier 4 it’s outstanding.

Part of the reason for this kind of efficiency is the Schneider Electric Struxureware Building Operation building monitoring system (BMS) that keeps tabs on all sorts of data center systems. The BMS enables real-time monitoring of the status of various components. Telefónica establishes thresholds for various systems and gets alerts when conditions are outside those norms.

It’s a comprehensive system, to be sure. The BMS monitors all the data center infrastructure to ensure energy efficiency in elements such as UPSs. But it also covers generators, water systems, building lighting, fire protection, HVAC and CRAC equipment, environmental monitoring (temperature and humidity) and more. In all, the BMS collects data from some 45,000 elements.

It’s also a good example of how Schneider Electric partners with others to deliver a complete solution for a customer. While we handled electrical distribution systems for the data center, UPSs to supply critical power and the BMS, other vendors supplied other data center components and infrastructure. But it’s all effectively managed by the Schneider Electric BMS, helping Telefónica deliver on the goals it envisioned for its Alcalá data center. This vendor agnostic third-party approach is enabled not only by the technology but also by the dedicated data center focused execution team that understood Telefonica’s unique customer demand profile and delivered upon it.

But don’t take my word for it. Check out this video to hear Fran Muña, who is in charge of critical infrastructure at the Alcalá data center, discuss how the Schneider Electric helps keep the data center both reliable and energy efficient.


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