A Tour of NTT Facilities in Tokyo

When NTT Facilities throws a party, it knows how to do it right. (NTT Facilities is one of many NTT companies, and it specializes in the inside infrastructure of data centers.) Following the conference presentation last week in Tokyo,  the other attendees and I were bussed to their research center, about an hour from downtown Tokyo. The research center is in the same place as the NTT Central Research Laboratories

It is a nice, cozy suburban environment without any distractions (nothing else to do except for conducting research).

There we saw the state-of-the-art technologies being developed by NTT Facilities. We saw three research projects (only a subset of all the research) going on for data centers:

  1. Earthquake simulator
  2. Airflow simulator
  3. Environment simulator

When I say a simulator, it is not a software simulator but a real system consisting of a lot of iron. Let me briefly describe each.

Earthquake simulator

Japan has a reputation as the center of earthquakes, especially in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Since Tokyo is the center of economy and politics, earthquake damages to its infrastructure would be catastrophic, including for IT and communications. Yet not many businesses leave Tokyo because of that. The second-best idea is to get ready for imminent earthquakes. What does that mean for data centers and the equipment in them?

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Monitoring Physical Threats in the Data Center
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Equipment, especially IT devices, is sensitive to shaking. For example, disk heads may crash if the equipment is shaken too hard. If there is a way to mitigate such shaking, the equipment may survive an earthquake of considerable size. But how do you prepare for that without actually shaking your racks full of sensitive IT equipment? As shown in the following picture, NTT Facilities developed an earthquake simulator.

It is a giant platform with a few arms that can move and shake the platform vertically and horizontally, as shown in the two pictures.

(Note: All the pictures in this blog are due to courtesy of NTT Facilities, Inc.)

The first picture shows the size of this simulator. The second picture shows some details from above, such as the vertical and horizontal arms.

NTT has offices throughout Japan, and each is equipped with meters to record earthquake information. In addition to the data recorded by Japan Meteorological Agency, it has its own recording of the major earthquake in the Kobe region, which was not known as a site for major earthquakes prior to 1995. Initially, NTT Facilities did not allow us to take pictures. I can say this: even if you could take pictures of this sophisticated simulator, it would be impossible to copy what they developed. It involves elaborate manufacturing technologies and precise software to repeat the exact earthquake waves.

Airflow simulator

The second tour was of a chamber for experimenting with the control of airflow in a data center. NTT Facilities has a product to contain a cold aisle, also known as aisle capping. Two aisles are set up, with and without capping, and airflow and temperatures at multiple locations are measured.

The picture shows an aisle without capping.

Environment simulator

The last tour was of a chamber for controlling the environmental parameters (temperature and moisture) to test CRAC units for outside. CRAC units are usually deployed in a pair, one inside and the other outside. The outside unit is affected a lot by outside environmental conditions. It would be nice to be able to change the parameters and test them in a simulated environment.

This picture shows this chamber, which can produce temperatures ranging from 14 °F to 122 °F. When we entered this chamber, it was set to 14 °F to simulate a typical temperature at Sapporo (the biggest northern city) in winter. We only stayed there for five minutes because it was too much.

This tour exemplifies the fact that Japan has a lot of technologies in progress and sometimes shows them to the public (as long as they speak Japanese) but is very shy in presenting them in English. I do not think it is because of their secrecy but the lack of language ability to do so. I will keep publishing interesting news.

Zen Kishimoto

About Zen Kishimoto

Seasoned research and technology executive with various functional expertise, including roles in analyst, writer, CTO, VP Engineering, general management, sales, and marketing in diverse high-tech and cleantech industry segments, including software, mobile embedded systems, Web technologies, and networking. Current focus and expertise are in the area of the IT application to energy, such as smart grid, green IT, building/data center energy efficiency, and cloud computing.

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