Dell Breathes Fresh Air Technology into "Chiller-less" Data Centers

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News Posted: Fri, Jul 29 2011 12:22 PM
Data centers have a tendency to get hot under the collar, and businesses spend big bucks keeping all that hardware running cool. They'll be happy to know that Dell's new integrated data center solution has not only been validated to operate within the highest current temperature and humidity guidelines issued by ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers, in case you were curious), but it's warrantied as such, too.

According to Dell, servers, storage, and networking equipment of the Dell Dell Fresh Air cooling solution are capable of short-term, excursion-based operation in temperatures up to 113F (45C), which is the highest temperature warrantied in mainstream servers in the industry.

"New data center construction exemplified by companies such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo has demonstrated a shift toward fresh air-cooled data centers that do not rely on chiller technology," Dell explains. "However, the standard allowable temperature maximum of 95 F (35 C) for today’s IT equipment limits the locations where they can be used without having to have a backup chiller facility for high temperature excursions.

"To meet the needs of a broader range of companies interested in employing more efficient and economical facility designs, Dell has validated a portfolio of servers, storage, networking, and power infrastructure that deliver short-term, excursion-based operation with limited impact on performance across a larger environmental window. In line with the new, more stringent ASHRAE A3 and A4 classifications, Dell systems have been developed for sustained operation at temperature ranges from minus 23 F (5 C) to 113 F (45 C) and allowable humidity from 5 percent to 90 percent."

Using equipment with Fresh Air capability, Dell says customers in some climates can eliminate the capital cost required to build a chiller plant as part of the data center. Dell reckons companies can save more than $100,000 of operational savings per megawatt of IT, and eliminate capital expenditures of around $3 million per MW of IT. Cha-ching!
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This is great for data centers pockets and also for the environment. The only thing that I find interesting is that the article mentions running short term at those temperatures. So these setups really need to be tested long term before data centers are going to be moving in this direction.

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This is ideal for data centers and pockets also for the environment. The only thing I find interesting is that the article mentions in the short run at these temperatures. Thus, these parameters should really be tested in the long term, before the data centers will move in this direction.

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mbahr replied on Mon, Aug 15 2011 8:05 PM

This is interesting.

But I'm skeptical about the real reason for this announcement.  Is it just for general Public Relations?

By day I am an architect.  And I have experience with high effiency HVAC systems. 

One of the problems with server farms is due to the density...  cutting the technology density by 1/2 provides a huge decrease in cooling requirements because you can mix more ambient air into the "hot" aisle.  And during hotter weather (or locations) you can get by with a smaller (more efficient) chiller.  Seems like that would be the simple thing to do, but technology tends to drive us all to distraction with squeezing more processing power into smaller and smaller units so that we miss the obvious solutions.  I know the cost of the facility would increase because of the need for additional square footage, but that "first cost" would be returned by energy savings over time.

Assuming less density is not going to happen...

The thing that has always intrigued me is finding beneficial use for the latent heat.  I have a project in construction right now that uses a radiant floor system to heat (and cool) the building.  It has a very small server rack.  But we are collecting the heat off the server rack, going through an  air to water heat exchanger, and moving that heat into a storage tank so it can be used to heat the building.  Of course I wouldn't be doing that if we didn't already have a storage tank... but you can see the idea.  Use the heat for some good.  And once you make this jump, you start to look at more efficient heat transfer situations.  And so you start to think about liquid cooling at the chip.  I think HP or IBM recently had a rack with integral water cooling, and some servers that integrated appropriate coolent lines.  Not sure why this hasn't caught on more.

I've also wondered why large data centers were not located adjacent to large office or, better yet, senior living centers, that could use all of that latent energy for some good.  Maybe in time?

Wouldn't it be great if we could combine technologies in such a way as to reduce our energy use?  Why aren't the technology companies thinking like this?



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