DataCenterDynamics: Bluebird Network Completes Underground Data Center Expansion
By Sebastian Moss, July 8, 2016
With help from Schneider Electric Bluebird Network has expanded and upgraded a bunker-based data center in Missouri it bought last year.
Last year, Bluebird acquired SpringNet’s underground data center and quickly got to work on expanding the facility, now known as Bluebird Underground, with the help of some Missouri tax breaks. Now, the 16,000 square foot expansion is complete, bringing the total usable, rentable space to 30,000 sq ft (2,800 sq m)
Image Source: Bluebird Network
In the cold, cold ground
The data center, nestled 85 feet below the surface in a limestone mine, was expanded in three phases by Schneider Electric’s data center service provider team. Bluebird upgraded the building management system integration services, and used Schneider’s Uniflair cooling and RPP (remote power panel) modular power system. The site remained operational.
“The acquisition and expansion of the underground data center [will] result in major opportunities to grow the Bluebird business and bring economic growth to the local community in southwest Missouri,” said Jeff Holland, director of design services at Schneider Electric.
Underground data centers have unique requirements, compared with traditional buildings above ground, aqnd required an “innovative and holistic” approach, said Holland.
To manage the facility, Bluebird kept on Todd Murren, who had been on the SpringNet management team for 13 years since the underground data center’s inception.
Murren mentions challenges such as the mine’s irregular surfaces, and the lack of GPS location, in a Schneider video, but says the drawbacks are outweighed by the benefits: “The thing most above-ground data centers have no control over is the weather - their natural and unnatural environment. Here, that’s not a concern.”
TWICE: TWICE VIP Award Nominations: Power & Charging
By Staff, July 7, 2016
The APC by Schneider Electric Back-UPS Connect is an innovative combination uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and removable mobile power pack featuring a lithium-ion battery designed to provide instant backup power to critical home networking equipment. The UPS system has rotating outlets and three USB charging ports that provide two and a half hours of flexible, adaptable and safe charging and protection for mobile devices and networks, particularly during critical power emergencies. The removable, fast-charging mobile power pack is capable of five or more charges to a smartphone and a full charge to a tablet. For safety, BGE50ML features surge, spike and lightning protection to prevent damaging voltage flowing through a wall outlet from reaching valuable electronics. For the home network user dependent on their connection to work, entertainment, security and connected devices—BGE50ML provides critical backup power to users when and where they need it most.
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Data Center Journal: Enterprise-Environment BMS Retrofits
By Greg Rutledge, July 5, 2016
It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way
Given the market’s pressure to “go lean,” some organizations can’t help but do the best with what they have. To many, the price tag on bridging the gap between the building-management system (BMS) they have and the BMS they think they need will break the budget. Although it’s easy to say from the outside looking in, “The price of an optimized BMS outweighs the price of a major failure almost any day of the week,” some data center managers are losing sleep because they cannot convince the right people in their organization that change is desperately needed. It might just take a failure for things to change. It doesn’t have to be this way.
With a clear set of goals, and the right partner, a data center manager can hedge against the dreaded 2 a.m. calls from the site, or worse yet the customer. In the following discussion, I will outline a plan for you to systematically bring your sites to an efficient and sustainable level.
Where Are You?
Although most companies focus on reducing the cost of operations, the BMS is an effective tool to manage on-site assets by measuring power usage as well as trends of alarms or shutdowns. Moreover, it can obviously perform remote operation and run-time management of the machine. The measurement of power consumption can act as a baseline and future measurement of improvements, proving that you knew what was best for the sites under your care. The BMS can also integrate with a third-party ticketing system, providing even more benefits. Essentially all of these tools save your organization money in one way or another.
One of your goals might be to improve your organization’s event response. It’s critical for companies to keep their servers online and facilitating profitability. The BMS allows for an enterprise-wide event-response model and alarm handling. If your BMS lacks this capability, trust me, it’s time to research the possibilities. Alarms and event notifications can be delivered through almost every electronic medium, such as SMS text, SNMP, SMTP, web services and good ole-fashioned radio waves. An alarm-escalation path prevents an event from ever going unnoticed if you don’t want it to. Whether your organization owns or leases the buildings in which it operates, the ability to see and react to alarm conditions can significantly decrease the amount of IT asset downtime. In the case where buildings are leased, a BMS can allow you to hold your landlord to the lease and verify any failure to do so.
Point A to Point B
Now that we’ve established where you are in the BMS life cycle, let’s go over the practical steps you should take to make your job easier. First—although it sounds obvious, it shouldn’t be ignored—is to identify your risks. The goal to increase IT uptime can be simpatico with the quest for operational efficiency, so don’t skip this part even if your only concern is efficiency. Find out from your site operators what makes them lose sleep. Ask what equipment they always find themselves in front of. Also, maybe find out what must be run manually. Equipment that’s manually operated or requires extensive human intervention should be considered to have a high risk of process failure. In what way can you mitigate the risk of downtime? Find out what sites and assets are vulnerable owing to lack of employee coverage. If possible, document scenarios that have occurred and how painful they were for all involved. In addition, if possible, assign an estimated cost to the event. Doing so might be difficult, since the costs likely go beyond your influence, but an estimate will allow you to prioritize the management of that asset and make a manageable budget easier to reach.
The next step is to identify the site or sites that require the most attention or that have the greatest amount of visibility in your organization. They are often the same, as the density of IT assets in a location often correlates with the greatest financial consequence. After you have identified the site or sites you want to review, find a BMS partner that can create an enterprise-level solution. Have this partner visit and survey the site or sites you identified.
The survey should be conducted by an architect-level BMS engineer that has the ability to give you options for the lowest operational impact.
To be an architect-level BMS engineer, this individual must have a full understanding of the IT network layer to the information protocol layer and down to the mechanical and electrical equipment layer. Without this understanding, the individual will be less likely to identify solutions that are an efficient and robust means of accomplishing your goals.
This process can involve recognition of existing software platforms and the ability to integrate with the ones that already function but may lack the options you need at the enterprise level. BMS vendors that don’t have the required experience will only focus on what they know, and they are likely to suggest that the only way to improve your operations is by amputating the existing system and install theirs.
We pause here to address an assumption made from the beginning of this article. This work assumes you are convinced of finding a vendor that can support your multiarea or multinational organization with a standardized approach and extensive experience in the data center industry. If your relationship with a vendor is new, it might be worth setting aside a prototype building—one that represents much of what a vendor will find in your other buildings. Doing so will allow you to work out much of what is frustrating about working with a vendor (contracts, service agreements, construction schedules and method of procedure documents). As with any business relationship, you will face a learning curve that can be painful, especially if the first work you do together is the biggest, toughest building in your portfolio.
During the site survey, go over the problem areas in the building. Explain the risks and painful situations you’ve experienced. Explain your organizational priorities before you and the vendor representative tour the facility. An asset list may help ensure that you miss nothing, but the BMS architect should be able to identify each piece of equipment and explain how an upgrade will contribute to your goals. Verify that a complete review of all equipment is performed. It’s important for you to know all the possibilities. If the vendor is local, multiple visits may make more sense; given the likely travel costs, however, just ask for a solution that covers everything—within reason, of course.
Expect questions from the vendor about how your organization oversees the site and how your people deal with alarms or events. The vendor will also likely want to see the existing BMS front end to help identify a solution baseline. At this point you should have a realistic scope of work. It may be sensible to invest a small sum to get this architecture documented in a set of high-level drawings that show the means and methods required to integrate or upgrade equipment.
Once you’ve determined a scope, it’s time to get the price. Get a price that covers the whole solution identified by the BMS architect. The cost of a BMS retrofit can be rather significant; don’t be afraid of the first number you get. This is why you made the up-front time investment to determine your priorities. Make sure the vendor gives you a proposal with an itemized scope, or if you received an architecture in the survey deliverables, go through it with the architect and identify the scope that will help you reach your goals.
Whittle down the scope until you have an affordable result that covers your top priority as far as your dollar will stretch. Remember that a phased approach, although it can reduce the cost, will inadvertently create other remobilization costs. Be on the lookout for price additions that cover repeat solutions such as graphics and software point integration. Also, watch for vendors whose installers are quoting sight unseen. You may be able to get a better price if you allow the installer to walk the site with the survey deliverable in hand. You will also want to review the level of graphics being offered. This level can vary widely from organization to organization as well as within the different software platforms offered by the same company. Ensure that what you’re buying meets both your budget and needs. Note that if you’re selling space in your data center, good graphics can help.
Hopefully, you were able to put a price tag on the risks and events that have occurred. You should also lean on your chosen vendor to clearly explain how the proposed solution will alleviate the fears of that problem ever happening again. With an approved budget in hand, its time to execute. The execution phase contains enough topics to fill many more articles, but you must make a few more decisions to reduce your risk exposure. Those decisions can consist of a method of procedures, whether to use a general contractor and third-party commissioning. Each has its own effectiveness in mitigating risk.
Once a firm model for execution is in place and a successful process is proven, implement it for all the important buildings in your portfolio. Hopefully you chose to work with an organization that has a history of executing in all areas of the globe that are important to you. BMS solutions tend to be difficult to replace no matter whom you select, so pick a company that can support you with both remote and on-site service, as well as a solution with a long product life cycle. I’m confident that if you do, you will be able to concentrate more on other important organizational challenges.
About the Author
Greg Rutledge is an engineering manager for the Data Center Software Solutions Group at Schneider Electric in Andover, MA. He manages the development of designs for building-management systems engineered specifically for the data center market. In his 15 years with Schneider Electric, Greg has commissioned BMS controls for data centers, designed UL891 and switchboards; for the last four years, he managed a cross-functional group of individuals responsible for engineering, panel building and software deployed in the data center. Greg holds a Bachelor of Science degree in business/marketing from the University of Phoenix and currently has a design patent pending.
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IT Business Edge: Schneider Electric Brings IoT to the Data Center
By Mike Vizard, July 5, 2016
For all the chatter these days surrounding the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT), one of the most fundamental use cases for these technologies is going to be inside rather than outside of the data center. A case is point isSchneider Electric’s new StruxureOn cloud service that makes use of sensors and application programming interfaces (APIs) to pull machine data from physical equipment manufactured by Schneider Electric and puts it into a cloud analytics application.
Steve Carlini, senior director of data center global solutions for Schneider Electric, says pulling data from Schneider racks and power supplies is only the first step. In time Schneider will make use of APIs from server and storage vendors to collect data about events occurring across the entire data center. The result will be a large instance of a Big Data analytics application designed specifically for IT organizations, says Carlini.
Carlini says it’s now a lot more economically feasible to securely collect all this data from within the data center thanks to the cloud. As a result, Carlini says, management of data centers as a whole is likely to become a lot more proactive.
In general, most IT organizations today are in reactive mode, waiting for some unexpected event to occur that they hope they can respond to fast enough to prevent any disruption in IT service. In the future, the management of IT will become much more automated as advanced analytics applications become more proficient at identifying a particular issue before it can ever impact the IT environment.
From a cultural perspective, there’s no doubt this change will have a profound impact on everything from the number of people required to staff an IT organization to the types of skills those people are expected to possess. That means the next big challenge isn’t necessarily the analytics applications required to enable those changes, but rather the dramatic impact those inevitable changes will have on IT culture within the IT organization.
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IT Business Edge: Can Batteries Do More than Just Back Up?
By Arthur Cole, July 4, 2016
In the quest to drive greater efficiency in the data center, providers are turning to evermore exotic methods to obtain power at a lower cost and convert it into high-value data.
Most of the attention these days is on alternative forms of generation and advanced power management software, but there is one largely overlooked aspect of the energy equation that just might prove to be the most significant of all: storage.
Virtually every data center is equipped with battery-fed UPS systems, just in case the grid goes down. But increasingly, facilities managers are starting to look at these energy sources as more than just emergency backup. Could they, in fact, help reduce energy consumption during regular operations? Perhaps, but the data industry will need to find a better battery first.
Most UPS systems rely on the same valve-regulated lead-acid (VRLA) technology that dates back to the mid-19th century, but this is changing with the advent of new lithium-ion systems that are powering everything from cell phones to smart cars these days, says Schneider Electric’s Patrick Donovan. In the data center, Li-ion technology has almost advanced to the point at which the lower operational costs can counter the higher upfront capital costs, producing about a 10 percent improvement in TCO over a 10-year lifespan. At the same time, Li-ion is lighter and denser than VRLA, allowing organizations to store more power in a smaller footprint while requiring far less cooling.
Li-ion may be newer, but development is still taking place on lead-acid technology to make it more data-friendly. A company called EnerSys has devised a Thin Plate Pure Lead (TPP) technology for its DataSafe XE line, which the company says can provide service at greater temperature extremes, such as those found in high-density compute environments. The design is intended to counter two key problems in alloyed lead-acid batteries: acid corrosion of the lead grid and grid expansion due to high heat. The system uses highly purified lead and a controlled fabrication process that helps triple battery life over conventional designs.
But if low-cost electricity is already coming from the grid, why would anyone want to offset it with a more expensive stored source? For organizations delving ever deeper into green energy, batteries can provide a crucial bridge between the vagaries of renewable supplies and the demand for always-on data. France’s Webaxys data center, for instance, is utilizing a new solution featuring Nissan electric vehicle batteries and advanced UPS hardware from Eaton Corp. The idea is not just to provide failover but to enable steady draw-down from renewable supplies and then return power to the local grid when consumption eases. This takes a lot of the uncertainty out of going green in the data center and allows the provider to better manage costs and infrastructure development.
Microsoft is on much the same track, although it is looking to maintain stability across its global data operations footprint that draws an estimated 3,500 GWh per year. The company has turned to Primus Power to deploy multi-hour duration flow batteries that can act as grid resources and provide steady output for several decades or more. By placing storage on the grid, Microsoft is looking to bolster not only peak performance but the fluctuating supplies caused by natural sources coming on- and off-line. As well, they can provide ancillary services like frequency regulation and maintenance of spinning and non-spinning reserves more efficiently than standard generators.
A robust energy storage system on-site has always been the best way to ensure energy security in the data center. But with battery technology becoming so powerful and versatile in recent years, it’s only natural that they should play a larger role in the day-to-day operation of the data environment.
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Mission Critical: Schneider Electric, Bluebird Network Unveil Expanded Underground Data Center
July 8, 2016
Schneider Electric solutions provide Bluebird complete control over underground data center environment; support 100% uptime assurance.
Bluebird was looking to grow and attract new customers to its existing 80,000-sq-ft underground data center and enlisted Schneider Electric’s specialized knowledge to deal with the many challenges of expanding 16,000 sq ft within an underground limestone mine. Schneider Electric’s Data Center Service Provider (DCSP) team developed a three-phased approach for expanding Bluebird’s underground data center to implement tailored solutions throughout the data center lifecycle, including Building Management System (BMS) integration services, Uniflair cooling solutions, Remote Power Panels (RPPs) and more, without interrupting ongoing operations.
“The acquisition and expansion of the underground data center are key accomplishments for the Bluebird leadership team, resulting in major opportunities to grow the Bluebird business and bring economic growth to the local community in southwest Missouri,” said Jeff Holland, director, design services, Schneider Electric. “Our team of data center experts understand the unique considerations of implementing an underground data center compared to traditional above ground facilities. We took an innovative and holistic approach to ensure everything from the outlet customers plug equipment in to, to the 2MW back-up generators, are operating efficiently and reliably.”
“Our support and services are mission critical for many of our customers, and we needed a partner that could help us maintain connectivity for our day-to-day operations during the data center expansion,” said Michael Morey, president and CEO of Bluebird Network and Bluebird Underground. “With Schneider Electric as a partner, the completion of this initial stage of our expansion enables us to focus on future updates in order to meet the increasing demands of our data center customers, while also providing ongoing support through our carrier-class Internet and transport services.”
Bluebird selected Schneider Electric to support the company’s philosophy of “Below Ground. Above Standards,” because of its breadth of knowledge, broad product line and ability to develop a long-term, step-by-step strategy. Key capabilities include:
- Design guidance through three-phased approach: To allow Bluebird operations to continue without interruption, Schneider Electric implemented a three-phased approach, beginning with an existing infrastructure assessment through potential design options for the expansion. This approach offered the ability to scale and grow in three phases, initially preserving capital expense and laying out a plan to add capacity in the following phases as required by future demands.
- Support of 100% uptime assurance: The Schneider Electric Building Management System (BMS) integration services empowered Bluebird to provide customers with 100 percent uptime assurance by ensuring the newly developed space is integrated into their existing BMS, allowing visibility into overall building and IT operations. Through this interoperability, Bluebird is able to gain greater control, improved performance, enhanced reliability and more real-time operation visibility to immediately react to issues. Additionally, Remote Power Panels (RPPs) enable agile, safe and efficient power distribution to the IT racks.
- Complete control over environment: The Schneider Electric leading edge precision Uniflair cooling solution supports temperature and humidity maintenance within the Bluebird data center. These intelligent units monitor the status of components and environmental parameter to ensure correct and efficient functionality during all modes of operation. The underground environment, coupled with Schneider Electric solutions, gives Bluebird complete control over the data center temperature for a more sustainable IT environment.
Data Center Knowledge: DCIM Software News Update: Week of July 6
By Yevgeniy Sverdlik, July 6, 2016
Schneider Says Plug Your Data Center into Its Cloud
Schneider Electric is taking a remote-assistance approach to data center management for its customers, inviting them to connect their physical infrastructure assets to its cloud, where the data will be analyzed for potential failures, while the company’s personnel will be on hand to either troubleshoot issues remotely or dispatch field service reps to customer data centers.
The new service is called StruxureOn, using the branding of Schneider’s line of infrastructure management software tools called StruxureWare, which includes its DCIM software suite, StruxureWare for Data Centers. The company has already rolled out the service in North America and plans to launch it globally in phases “towards the end of 2016 and into 2017,” Schneider said in a statement.
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ZDNet: Schneider Electric Does IoT on Microsoft Azure
By Andrew Brust, July 28, 2016
With Schneider Electric and its digital transformation, Microsoft is seeing tangible evidence that a focus on analytics, IoT, cloud, and open source is paying off.
You may not know Schneider Electric, but if you're an Internet of Things (IoT) watcher, you should. Schneider, based in France, is a multinational industrial technology firm providing services around energy and automation management.
The company is also undergoing a full-on digital transformation. And when an industrial company does that, with all of the heavy machine and sensor assets that it manages, you have to think IT.
Mr. Schneider goes to Washington
Schneider has been working closely with Microsoft and its Azure in this transformation effort. In fact, Schneider's work with Microsoft was featured prominently at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference, held the week before last, in Toronto. Having done a small amount of work with Schneider myself before, I was aware of the companies prowess and wanted to understand better how the company was using Azure technologies.
As it happens, Schneider has an executive VP who is specifically in charge of Digital Transformation and IoT. His name is Cyril Perducat, and he spoke to me this week about how that transformation is fanning out, and the degree to which IoT is involved. I learned a lot.
One for all
Perducat told me Schneider has a huge portfolio of projects and that 100 percent of them are affected by the digital transformation effort. As just one example, Schneider has an solar energy offering called "EcoStruxure Solutions", that is global and is deployed in Nigeria, Japan, and other countries around the globe. EcoStruxure involves remote monitoring and analytics, which means it has "IoT" written all over it.
Although Schenider's businesses are varied -- organizationally and geographically in terms of the work itself -- Schneider is working with a variety of partners to build a digital platform/IoT stack that can be used across the entire company. Furthermore, Microsoft is the biggest of those partners, Perducat says.
In terms of IoT, Perducat says there are no fewer than 50 projects using different variations of IoT technology. Some involve devices; others involve complete systems. The projects tie back into other systems, including CRM and customer service platforms. All of them use the same IoT foundation stack, and most are based on Azure IoT and Cortana Intelligence.
Specific Azure components used include IoT Hub, Stream Analytics, HDInsight, and other components offered under the Cortana Intelligence Suite, including Power BI. Perducat explained to me the amount of IoT and analytics infrastructure offered by Microsoft lets Schneider focus on the application level instead of the underlying plumbing. Such a platform play is, of course, classic Microsoft. All this provides tangible vindication that the Azure strategy is working -- in a way that plays off Redmond's strengths and heritage.
Will the real IoT cloud please stand up?
Interestingly, a key offering of Schneider's is in the area of data center management. As such, not only is Microsoft a Schneider partner -- it's also a customer. So is as it turns out, Amazon Web Services. As a result, Schneider looked hard at both company's IoT services.
Perducat told me that Schneider feels Microsoft is well ahead of the competition, that its global presence of datacenters is very important to Schneider, and that Microsoft is very enterprise customer-friendly. Perducat added that Schneider also appreciates that Microsoft is more friendly to open source than it has been, historically. And that seems another nice vindication of Microsoft's more recent strategic direction.
How to get ahead in the higher-margin cloud
Perducat says that AWS is in catch-up mode (to Azure) with respect to IoT. He says Google and IBM are in catch-up mode as well, but they are even further behind than is AWS. So, while the industry is likely used to hearing that Azure's catching up to AWS, here we have a very significant case where the reverse seems to be true.
In this instance, analytics is clearly driving adoption of the Azure cloud -- and with services that go beyond commoditized, low-margin compute, and storage. Of course, to beat AWS, that's exactly where Microsoft needs things to go. With a few more Schneiders for Microsoft, the cloud horse race could change significantly.
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Consulting Specifying Engineer: Digital service connecting data center to electric cloud
By Staff, July 25, 2016
StruxureOn is a digital service that connects data center physical infrastructure assets to the electric cloud enabling the delivery of simplified and fast services.
Schneider Electric's StruxureOn is a digital service that connects data center physical infrastructure assets to the electric cloud enabling the delivery of simplified and fast services. It is harnessing the power of IoT to predict and prevent incidents and downtime in data centers. With real-time visibility into system via mobile app, StruxureOn's data-driven analytics can proactively advise of potential failures. The digital service is Supported by 24/7 Schneider Electric Service Bureau personnel, which is readily available to remotely troubleshoot an issue or dispatch a field service representative.
CRN: The 10 Biggest Managed Services Trends of 2016 (So Far)
By Michael Novinson, July 23, 2016
New APC Managed Services Program Aims To Drive Recurring Revenue Sales Growth
A new managed services program from UPS and power management giant APC by Schneider Electric is aimed at driving more recurring revenue for partners.
The program, which officially launched May 10, includes a new managed services certification, market development funds and an 8 percent discount for bundling APC Smart-UPS, network card and one- or three-year extended warranty.
With the new program, APC has integrated its Smart-UPS power management and monitoring into managed services platforms such as ConnectWise, N-Able, Kaseya and AVG. The managed services platforms provide partners with the ability to monitor an installed base of as many as 3 million APC-Smart UPS devices.
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IT Business Edge: Data Center Cooling Advancing on Multiple Fronts
By Arthur Cole, July 22, 2016
Vendor solutions are becoming more sophisticated as well, particularly when dealing with the high-capacity loads that are becoming commonplace in the era of Big Data and the Internet of Things. Schneider Electric’s new InRow DX system offers a further 50 percent reduction in energy consumption compared to earlier generation technology while maintaining a narrow 600 mm footprint. The system provides high-density cooling up to 42 kW through advances like brushless variable-speed scroll compressors and electronically commutated (EC) fans that utilize DC rather than AC power. It also incorporates a hot air recirculation prevention system, active flow control and both fluid- and air-cooled configurations suitable for closet, server room and full data center deployment.
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Energy Manager Today: Google: AI Cuts Datacenter Cooling Costs
By Carl Weinschenk, July 21, 2016
Artificial intelligence (AI) may be a transformative tool in improving the energy efficiency of datacenters, according to The Verge.
The site says that Google has run an experiment in which its DeepMind AI technology reduced energy use by 40 percent. The cooling savings equated to a 15 percent reduction in overall power use. The Verge points out that the company used more than 4.4 million MWh of electricity in 2014. Thus, the savings would be hundreds of millions of dollars if the efficiencies can be extended over the entire portfolio.
DeepMind AI technology controlled approximately 120 variables in the experiment, the story said.
This week, Schneider Electric announced the extension of its datacenter cooling line with the introduction of the InRow DX.
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