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Dell warranties servers for 'fresh-air cooling'

By James Niccolai
July 28, 2011 08:58 AM ET

IDG News Service - Dell said Thursday it will warranty servers to run at 113 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) for a limited number of hours per year, so that customers can make wider use of "fresh-air cooling" in their data centers.

The announcement comes as data centers are trying to rein in escalating energy costs. The energy used to keep IT equipment cool can account for as much as half the total cost of running a data center.

Most big data centers use chillers, big mechanical pieces of equipment that provide cold water for cooling. By contrast, fresh-air cooling is an emerging technique that draws outside air into the data center, filters it and uses that to cool the IT gear.

That can make fresh-air cooling far more energy-efficient than a chiller, but using outside air can also lead to wide fluctuations in temperature, particularly during warm summer months.

Dell will warranty many of its mainstream servers, as well as some network and storage products, to operate at 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) for up to 900 hours per year, and at 113 degrees Fahrenheit for 90 hours per year, the company said.

That will give more data centers the opportunity to use fresh-air cooling year-round, because their equipment will be tested and warrantied for use during the hottest hours, said Eric Wilcox, power and cooling product manager for Dell.

Ninety hours doesn't sound like a long time, he acknowledged, but temperatures in most of North America, for example, rarely exceed 113 degrees Fahrenheit for more than a few hours a day during a few weeks of the year.

The higher temperature rating will allow year-round fresh-air cooling all over North America, apart from very hot and humid places like Atlanta, he said. The same will be true for much of Europe.

The announcement covers only Dell equipment, of course, and it remains to be seen if other vendors will follow suit. Some data centers divide their computer rooms into zones, so they could potentially operate different areas at different temperatures.

Dell didn't design new equipment for the higher temperatures. Its latest servers already operate reliably at 113 degrees Fahrenheit for limited periods, Wilcox said. But like most other big vendors, Dell warrantied its servers only to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. It hopes to gain a competitive edge by being the first big vendor to go beyond that limit with mainstream products.

The products covered in the announcement include two-socket 1U and 2U servers, as well as tower servers. Some systems that customers bought recently may also be covered. "Say you bought an R610 [server] six months ago, we'll warranty that under these new operating conditions," Wilcox said.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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