Data center facilities pro

Nov 3 2010   9:33PM GMT

Forrester analyst weighs in on cooling at the server level

Ryan Arsenault Ryan Arsenault Profile: Ryan Arsenault

Cooling directly at the server level is one of the latest energy-efficient trends being touted for the data center, but whether its chilly benefits will be reaped in the near future is another question.

Emerson Network Power just rolled out its Liebert XDS cooling system, which brings refrigerant-based cooling directly to the server level. The system boasts a standard IT rack with cold plate server cooling technology. Heat produced by the server is shuttled through heat risers to the server housing, through thermal interface material that lines the cover, and finally to a cooling plate, which uses refrigerant-filled tubing that absorbs the heat – air thus doesn’t have to be expelled from the rack into the data center.

Doug Washburn, an analyst with Forrester Research, says reducing cooling costs in the data center starts with basic best practices such as raising server inlet air temperature and cleaning up cabling under the raised floor. But when the opportunity arises for higher-impact cooling methods – like direct server cooling – it’s worth looking into.

“Direct cooling, or bringing cooling directly to the server where the heat is being created, like that offered by Liebert’s XDS, reduces cooling costs by removing server fans and data center facility cooling equipment,” Washburn said.

However, while cooling directly at the server level presents a host of benefits, it may not yet be at the top of IT managers’ Christmas lists.

“Despite the energy savings opportunity, the high majority of data center managers are primarily goaled on uptime and resiliency – not energy and cooling efficiencies,” Washburn was careful to point out. “While this is changing, it will take time for data center managers to get comfortable with modifications that they may perceive to negatively impact availability, such as removing server fans. Likewise, broad-scale removal of facility cooling equipment isn’t likely given that data center managers will continue to operate legacy IT systems and racks which can’t take advantage of server-level cooling.”

Washburn didn’t completely discount the merits of  improving server cooling efficiency. He pointed out that the cost to power and cool a server over its lifespan may exceed the price tag of the equipment itself, and reducing cooling capacity can also avoid downtime. It’s just a matter of acclimation at this point for IT managers who may be hesitant to switch to the radical cooling technology and in the process switch their priorities from uptime to energy efficiency.

If you are considering server cooling efficiencies for your data center, you can check out specs of the XDS, available in 42U and 45U versions, at the Liebert website.

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