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Redefining Cool

Better energy management could lead to cooler data centers that consume 50% less power, says HP's Chandrakant Patel.

October 31, 2005 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - As compute density has increased, temperatures have been rising in the data center. Hewlett-Packard Co.'s "Cool Team" is working on innovative ways to dissipate the heat. Lab inventions range from ink-jet pumps that spray coolant on hot chips to more efficient designs for computer room air-conditioning systems. Cool Team founder Chandrakant Patel spoke with Computerworld's Robert L. Mitchell about how current research is making for cooler data centers.
What is the Cool Team? It is a community of engineers across HP founded in 1996. The idea was to create a virtual team that can apprise each other of the challenges ahead and funnel research ideas and technologies at HP Labs out to the divisions.

What research are you pursuing with regard to data center cooling issues? The data center is the next challenge. The aggregation of high-density, commodity servers in data centers will cause a problem from a management point of view. It's akin to cooling a system enclosure, but now the enclosure is the data center, with the walls of the data center being the walls of the enclosure.
Fifty percent of the cost of a data center is associated with what I call burdened cost of power, which is all of this expensive power and cooling equipment that is needed to support the computers.

How big of a burden is that in actual dollars? Let's say you have 100 racks of servers. Each rack is on the order of 12 to 13 kilowatts, [and] the power required by the servers is 1.3 megawatts. The power required by the cooling resources to remove that heat generated is almost equal to that dissipated by the servers. So the air conditioning will take another 1.3 kilowatts of power. If you look at the cost of electricity today, 1.3 megawatts at 10 cents a kilowatt-hour at 24/7 operation is $1.2 million per year. This is quite significant.
What we've said is, "OK, how do I reduce that by half?" If you can provide products and services which [do that and] have a payback of one year, that's a very compelling proposition.

How do you do that? We look at the layout of the air conditioning and we run a fluid-dynamics model. For this fixed distribution of AC resources, how should the customer lay out the racks and the vent tiles, and how should they lay out their exhaust air? How do they do that minimally, without impacting the data center? We believe we can get 25% savings.

Where does the other 25% come from? In order to get

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