Brocade: Improving Data Center Cooling Efficiency

Customized In-Row Cooling (IRC) units can help organizations achieve significant cost and energy savings across data centers of various sizes and configurations. This case study describes how Brocade® is utilizing IRC units from Custom Mechanical Systems to boost data center efficiency, reliability, and scalability.

The Challenge: Cool the Data Center More Efficiently

As an industry-leading network solutions provider, Brocade helps organizations achieve strategic business objectives such as consolidation, network convergence, virtualization, and cloud computing. Today, Brocade networking solutions are used in more than 90 percent of Global 1000 data centers.

When Brocade recently built its own state-of-the-art data center as part of its new corporate campus in San Jose, California, it decided to implement customized IRC units for scalable, flexible, reliable, and energy-efficient cooling. In particular, the company wanted to achieve significant energy savings by using innovative air management and cooling plant strategies, including:

• Isolating the hot aisle and preventing mixing and contamination

• Retrofitting the air-handling units inside the colocation space to make them more efficient

• Incorporating water-side economizing with a high-efficiency chiller plant

• Increasing cold aisle air temperature to 85º F

• Implementing primary-only, variable-flow chilled water pumping

• Incorporating variable condenser water flow and condenser water reset capabilities

Brocade felt that combining these strategies with customized IRC units would enable it to significantly reduce IT equipment cooling costs by optimizing fan speed and chilled water flow.

The Requirement: Increase Scalability, Flexibility, Reliability, and Efficiency

The new Brocade corporate campus includes a 5000 square-foot data center, 70,000 square feet of R&D lab space, and 2000 racks. When designing this environment, Brocade identified numerous requirements and business objectives. For instance, the company wanted a highly scalable, flexible, reliable, and efficient environment—with a cooling solution capable of scaling from 3 to 8 kW per rack across the 75,000 square feet of IT and R&D space.

To meet those objectives, Brocade decided to use a central chilled water plant with three 900-ton chillers to cool the data center and R&D facility. When the cooling towers are able to provide cold enough water, the building can run on a 2060-ton water-side economizer (with the chillers turned off). This system provides chilled water to 240 10-ton IRC units, with a flexible infrastructure capable of providing 3600 tons at full build-out.

One of the key reasons Brocade uses an IRC design on a flat floor is the significant energy savings. In fact, Brocade has achieved a 12 percent increase in rack unit capacity by raising rack height from a standard 7-foot rack to an 8-foot rack. Additional benefits of this design include automatic controls of uneven loads at the pod aisle level, greater flexibility for R&D configurations, and easier scalability for future growth.

The Solution: IRC Units from Custom Mechanical Systems

The custom designed and manufactured IRC units from Custom Mechanical Systems have delivered 70 percent greater efficiency than mass-produced HVAC products, increasing cooling capacity for the taller rack heights. These advantages are achieved through an innovative direct-drive electrically commutated motor and airfoil fan design that helps Custom Mechanical Systems outperform the competition.

With the custom IRC units in place, Brocade has achieved much higher capacities than is possible with other offerings.

This project demonstrates how customized solutions—combined with best-practice strategies—can greatly improve energy savings and operational effectiveness in the data center and other IT environments. This approach has resulted in significant energy savings with a relatively fast ROI.

Fan energy savings increased by as much as 567 percent by utilizing custom IRCs rather than standard IRC units or conventional downflow CRAH units. In addition, the ability to control variable-speed fan motors aisle-by-aisle while monitoring aisle temperatures has enabled automatic cooling-demand modulation. As a result, Brocade has avoided issues related to overcooling, instability, and non-uniform or variable loads—and the Brocade data center and R&D lab now have an impressive combined calculated PUE of 1.3.

To learn more about Brocade, visit

Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top