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Intel Shows Data Centers Can Get By (Mostly) With Little AC

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the googly-attrition dept.

Power 287

Ted Samson IW writes "InfoWorld reports on an experiment in air economization, aka 'free cooling,' conducted by Intel. For 10 months, the chipmaker had 500 production servers, working at 90 percent utilization, cooled almost exclusively by outside air at a facility in New Mexico. Only when the temperature exceeded 90 degrees Fahrenheit did they crank on some artificial air conditioning. Intel did very little to address air-born contaminants and dust, and nothing at all to deal with fluctuating humidity. The result: a slightly higher failure rate — around 0.6 percent more — among the air-cooled servers compared to those in the company's main datacenter — and a potential savings of $2.87 million per year in a 10MW datacenter using free cooling over traditional cooling."

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How about reducing the need for AC POWER as well.. (4, Insightful)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 6 years ago | (#25061625)

How about reducing the need for AC POWER as well by cutting down on the number of AC TO DC PSU's.

Re:How about reducing the need for AC POWER as wel (5, Interesting)

MarcQuadra (129430) | more than 6 years ago | (#25061769)

I asked the president of an engineering firm that I work for about this. He ships racks of boxes, each holding DSP boards on backplanes, each backplane has it's own PSU.

When I asked him why he doesn't just have one or two -big- power supplies in the unit, he said that he tried that, but the cost of the non-standard PSU was higher than all the ATX PSUs put together, and then some, and replacing the units when they eventually fail would be tricky, as opposed to just stocking more ATX PSUs.

I agree that it's a good idea, but until there's enough volume of large multi-output PSUs shipping, the cost of manufacture makes the product unworkable (unless you think big-picture and want to spend more up front for power savings over the whole unit's life).

Generally, the people who use the hardware aren't the ones building it, and buyers usually go for the lowest bid.

Re:How about reducing the need for AC POWER as wel (4, Informative)

Curtman (556920) | more than 6 years ago | (#25061989)

The fluctuating humidity probably wouldn't be a problem in New Mexico either. The rest of us might have a problem.

Re:How about reducing the need for AC POWER as wel (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062375)

The article said they got up to 90% humidity at times. Remember, they didn't have any humidity controls at all, and it does rain in New Mexico resulting in short durations of high humidity.

I would say that fluctuations in humidity were tested quite well - long term effects of constant humidity, not so much.

Re:How about reducing the need for AC POWER as wel (1)

neile (139369) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062383)

The original article says humidity fluctuated between 4 and "more than 90%" over the course of the study. If you've never been to New Mexico you've missed out... they get some wicked thunderstorms.

Neil

Re:How about reducing the need for AC POWER as wel (2, Informative)

spun (1352) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062469)

We have a monsoon season here, in mid summer. Gets pretty humid at times.

48 vdc (3, Informative)

autocracy (192714) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062041)

A company I used to work for (SeaChange International) would ship systems that, in some cases, were large enough to be considered their own datacenter. Some customers would order -48 volt DC power supplies. They'd do their own wiring at the site, having one big AC-DC converter to handle the entire system. They were certainly more expensive than the ATX supplies.

Re:48 vdc (5, Informative)

silentbozo (542534) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062417)

One benefit to going DC is that you can wire your battery modules directly into the DC distribution grid for the CPUs (with appropriate charge and cutover circuits), and forgo the inefficiencies in converting AC to DC at the UPS, and then back out again, only to convert the AC back to DC at the CPU.

Having multiple of a commonly used voltage used in renewable energy also helps if, for example, you want to feed your datacenter directly from say wind or solar, in addition to a set of AC to DC converter.

Re:How about reducing the need for AC POWER as wel (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25062537)

Isn't it more efficient to do the DC conversion as close to the last second as possible? Once the juice is DC it becomes much less efficient to move it around, no?

Re:How about reducing the need for AC POWER as wel (1)

Gat0r30y (957941) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062315)

I've often wondered about that myself. It seems absurd to have so many little AC to DC PSU's in a data center. Why not just have 1, directly integrated into a backup power supply? What is there in a datacenter that doesn't run on 12V/5V/3.3V DC? It would seem way more efficient, and less costly to me. Not only that, but those PSU's are producing heat too, which only exacerbates the cooling issue (fans for each PSU). Also, it would seem to me an evaporative cooling system instead of AC would be just as effective, especially somewhere like NM.

Huh? (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25061651)

When will the editors get "around around" to reading these submissions before approving them?

Re:Huh? (1)

krazytekn0 (1069802) | more than 6 years ago | (#25061687)

Hey, I'm piping outside air in... you shouldn't be here

Why should they? (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062293)

They're already real cool heads
and they're making real cool bread

Chimney effects (4, Interesting)

RollingThunder (88952) | more than 6 years ago | (#25061667)

I do wonder how things could be improved with a decently sized stack... the higher an exit chimney, the more draw you'll get from the temperature differential. If your computer rooms are near the base of a decent sized office building, and you have a 20 story stack, I'd expect you could get away without any intake or exhaust fans.

Anyone here that can confirm or deny this?

Re:Chimney effects (2, Funny)

Scienceman123 (1366877) | more than 6 years ago | (#25061763)

The only problem with this and high-performance computing is latency time between nodes if the height is great enough.

Re:Chimney effects (1)

jhfry (829244) | more than 6 years ago | (#25061947)

Wouldn't a chimney cause resistance. I would think having under floor intake and above ceiling output, with some exhaust fans in the ceiling space to draw the air through the cabinets and push it outside would force plenty of air across the equipment.

If you use a chimney, you essentially would be reducing the volume of air that can be exhausted, but you would be increasing the speed of the air.

combine this with vortex effects (2, Interesting)

Xandar01 (612884) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062019)

Add some of the Dyson vacuum inspired vortex thingy's to the intake to help filter out the dust and you wouldn't have to waste as much money on filters either.

Or what if you run the incoming air through a swamp cooler? wouldn't the running water cut down on the incoming dust significantly?

Re:combine this with vortex effects (1)

bendodge (998616) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062065)

Yes, but humidity isn't server-friendly.

Re:combine this with vortex effects (1)

Xandar01 (612884) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062287)

Umm yeah, I was tripped up by the article mentioning that their test center did ok with the humidity, but the graph shows that it stayed between 10% - 20% Humidity, much lower than the 80% - 90% relative humidity a swamp cooler is going to provide.

To top it off, looks like the running water doesn't do much to filter contaminates after all.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evaporative_cooling#Disadvantages [wikipedia.org]

Re:combine this with vortex effects (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062459)

Dyson vacuum inspired vortex thingies? Dyson copied the vortex idea from industrial chimneys (and credits this as the source of his idea).

Re:Chimney effects (2, Insightful)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062075)

I would think you'd get a vacuum sucking air up the chimney, as 20+ story buildings would have their exhaust exit at almost 200 ft above ground. Winds up there can move pretty quickly, causing the pressure at the chimney exit to be lower, creating suction, no?

Re:Chimney effects (1)

N1ck0 (803359) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062453)

Well technically that would be air being Blown out...or more precisely siphoning air up the chimney.

Air ventilated at ground pressure will be siphoned to the low pressure area at the top of the stack. Combine that with humidity and convection from the heat and you have the Chimney Effect, or Stack Effect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stack_effect).

You could even boost this by adding solar energy collectors (essentially a good light absorbent material to conduct more heat in the chimney), to create a Solar Chimney (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_chimney).

Now of course if you try this on the interior of an office building you will get the opposite effect happen. The forced air systems usually compensate for the natural pressure and heat difference on the upper floors. This can then increase pressure in the bottom of any open space spanning levels. (when you open the doors in a building at the air is usually blowing out...or why their is usually a draft at the bottom of an open elevator shaft)

Re:Chimney effects (3, Funny)

jitterman (987991) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062221)

I do wonder how things could be improved with a decently sized stack... ?

Apparently you haven't checked your spam folder lately; you'll find plenty of answers in there addressing just this question. :)

Simpler Tools (4, Interesting)

copponex (13876) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062289)

Part of the problem is people are looking for very complicated solutions for very simple problems.

In retrofitting a standalone building, all you really need to do is reduce the amount of heat a building gains from the sun by improving it's R value and use sensible ducting to draw air through the building. I've seen some super energy efficient designs where each floor is vented, so that the building is itself a chimney, with cool air coming from vents from covered areas near the base, and enough size provided at the top to pull enough from the bottom, which is also easily aided by fans.

In building an entirely new datacenter, it would make sense to bury the server rooms, and cover the concrete structure with earth and solar panels. Combined with a flywheel load balancer, you could have an "off the grid" datacenter with the grid for backup. During the daylight hours, especially in the south, the panels can provide a good deal of the A/C and power necessary. At night the flywheel can continue powering the data center for a while, and turn fans without compressors to cool the equipment with night air.

This can all be done with existing technology. The trick is to convince people that green investment will lead to a return in the long run. I haven't personally looked at average rate increases in electricity, but the difference between efficient and additional construction expenses versus long term energy price fluctuations probably looks very good.

Makes Sense (5, Insightful)

ironicsky (569792) | more than 6 years ago | (#25061677)

Makes sense to me. The most efficent places to store data centers is in the northern US or Canada where you have sub-zero temperatures from November - March and ranging between 0-15 in April/May and Sept/Oct and the rest of the year 20-30+ (Celcius of course) With these lower temperatures they could run a data center entirely off outside air from September - May each year. Put a heppa filter in between to scrub out dirt and dust and vola, o'natural cooling solutions

Re:Makes Sense (0, Flamebait)

realmolo (574068) | more than 6 years ago | (#25061845)

What the fuck is heppa?

It's HEPA. It's an acronym. High-Efficiency Particulate Air.

Re:Makes Sense (3, Insightful)

djh101010 (656795) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062439)

What the fuck is heppa?

It's HEPA. It's an acronym. High-Efficiency Particulate Air.

Yeah, because the guy not knowing the acronym makes the point he's making completely useless, right? (sheesh). Only thing worse than a speeling flame is a speeling flame with attitude, dude. You might consider chilling out a bit.

Re:Makes Sense (4, Funny)

entgod (998805) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062523)

No, I believe the gp did mean heppa as it's finnish for horse. He was talking about natural cooling solutions wasn't he? Can't beat a horse scrubbing out dirt and dust out of data centers when it comes to being natural.

Re:Makes Sense (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25061867)

I set up a datacenter at my old job in Alberta, and that's exactly what we did.

We ran exhaust ducting to the offices, and tied intake into the building's cold-air return. From September to May fans moved colder air into the data room and hot air into the office space. June to August we ran the AC, and shut off the "winter lines" with dampers.

It worked extremely well.

Re:Makes Sense (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 6 years ago | (#25061873)

Put a heppa filter in between to scrub out dirt and dust and vola, o'natural cooling solutions

I think that solution will put Dust Bunnies on the endangered species list

Re:Makes Sense (4, Funny)

tzhuge (1031302) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062151)

Us canucks can even use those data centers to heat our igloos. Right now I'm using my Xbox 360, but I think a data center would be much more efficient.

Re:Makes Sense (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062225)

I agree that the AC setting really doesn't need to be so aggressively cold. 90F seems a bit high though. 60F is just too inefficient, the idea was that you had excess capacity in case cooling failed, but most rack devices can last months at maybe 80 to 85F with no problems. I wouldn't want it to stay at 90F for long though.

Re:Makes Sense (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062327)

Or better.
Put them in the desert next to a couple of extra areas, build a solar thermal plant and power the things, plus air conditioning for free and sell the remains 150 MW to the grid.

Re:Makes Sense (1)

p5 (102346) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062415)

People would think this, but when the temp, around 40 F, you can open ducts and turn off the AC. However, you need to crank up the fans to blow around this cold air. There is some savings, however its more of a going Green theme that is appeasing to everyone.

And that's why (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25061679)

I leave my systems on the deck.

Perhaps they should be in Alaska (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25061723)

... in Anchorage you have all the free cooling you want!

Re:Perhaps they should be in Alaska (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25061883)

Hm. Better be careful. It seems like they just found a big cloud of hot air somewhere. Near a village called Wasilla if I'm not mistaken.

Re:Perhaps they should be in Alaska (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25061999)

That fine its moving to Washington soon. plus there are lots of Christian school girls about ;)

Re:Perhaps they should be in Alaska (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25062329)

So the hot air is good for helping those Christian girls cook stuff in the oven? hehe

Re:Perhaps they should be in Alaska (1)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062335)

Oh, dear God! I hope it doesn't move to Washington soon!

Re:Perhaps they should be in Alaska (1)

hax0r_this (1073148) | more than 6 years ago | (#25061893)

Especially because you don't have to pay by the gallon for water, and it comes out of the tap COLD (I suspect because it comes from a glacial lake). I have more than one friend who has a water cooled rig that just dumps exhaust water down the drain.

Re:Perhaps they should be in Alaska (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25061937)

Oh...So now you're saying that Palin is frigid. Sexist!

Re:Perhaps they should be in Alaska (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25062007)

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition !

The Russians are coming (1)

atari2600 (545988) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062039)

The Russians can see your servers from their houses.

I mean (1)

atari2600 (545988) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062055)

In Soviet Russia, Data Center cool you.

Re:Perhaps they should be in Alaska (1)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062209)

or underground.

sweet (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25061727)

oh yes.

What About the Small Guys? (1)

Kuriomister (1366535) | more than 6 years ago | (#25061749)

lets look at this from another perspective: Some datacenters allow for others to used slots inside their datacenters. would a small company running off a single server inside one of these datacenters be aright with the increased risk of possible damage to thier servers?

Re:What About the Small Guys? (4, Funny)

iamhigh (1252742) | more than 6 years ago | (#25061839)

You must be new here.
There are no small guys... especially on /. We all run data centers with 3000 servers and program on apps with 10+ million LOC. We also all built something better than a 3d solar cell in the 5th grade.

Re:What About the Small Guys? (1)

Kuriomister (1366535) | more than 6 years ago | (#25061919)

*&(*&, i feel way behind now, looks like i need to go back to 5th grade...

Re:What About the Small Guys? (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062079)


*&(*&, i feel way behind now, looks like i need to go back to 5th grade...

On the bright side you won't have to be asked whether you're smarter than a 5th grader ;)

Re:What About the Small Guys? (3, Funny)

mrdoogee (1179081) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062169)

We all run data centers with 3000 servers and program on apps with 10+ million LOC. We also all built something better than a 3d solar cell in the 5th grade.

Pfft! I achieved a technological singularity 3 years ago. I am the datacenter.

Re:What About the Small Guys? (4, Insightful)

terraformer (617565) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062119)

I will rephrase your question. Would a .6% increase in the already tiny failure risk be noticeable to someone running a single server when their chances of failure were already so small to begin with that their server was far less likely to fail in the first place? No, so yes, it is worth it from a cost perspective. They can take the money they save and replace the hardware twice as fast and their already small failure rate is less than half. This is a win all around and actually, the article never said what was the source of the increased failures, heat or particulate in the air. If the latter, this is a huge win for energy efficiency.

First post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25061759)

First post

In New Mexico? (1)

Jonah Bomber (535788) | more than 6 years ago | (#25061775)

Isn't it always above 90 degrees there? (Except at night, of course.)

Re:In New Mexico? (1)

JesseL (107722) | more than 6 years ago | (#25061899)

Uhhh...no [wunderground.com] .

Re:In New Mexico? (1)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062441)

You're probably thinking of Phoenix, in the state of Arizona to the west. Albuquerque is at a mean altitude of 5,312 ft (1,619.1 m), considerably above sea level. Like Flagstaff, Arizona, and Denver, Colorado, it sits on the Colorado Plateau. There are four seasons there, snowfall in winter, and reasonable temperatures,...

Bad title... AC vs. AC (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25061783)

I thought the story was going to be about Alternating Current, but instead it was Air Conditioning.

Written by another AC

What a great study! (3, Insightful)

MarkusQ (450076) | more than 6 years ago | (#25061791)

The result: a slightly higher failure rate -- around around 0.6 percent more -- among the air-cooled servers compared to those in the company's main datacenter -- and a potential savings of $2.87 million per year

The savings should be more than enough to pay for replacement hardware, and even for upgrades. And stepping back and looking at the big picture tells me that there is at least one brilliant person at Intel--whoever though of doing this study is a genius!

--MarkusQ

Re:What a great study! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25061991)

So what Intel is saying is that their products are cheaper than AC. Buy replacements & save energy costs. More money to Intel instead of more money to electric co.

Re:What a great study! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25062311)

He should get a few thousand in bonuses. I mean think about it he is telling companies how to save money yet buy more computer (hopefully intel) products. This could definitely be a new new for both customers and Intel.

On the other hand how does the manufacturing and disposal of the extra E waste effect the environment. It might even be a win for the environment but it might be bad for the environment too.

Re:What a great study! (1)

jhfry (829244) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062491)

I agree. It's time to overhaul the data center. Here are a few things I would love to change.

- Cabinet power supplies. Why the hell does every piece of equipment need an AC-DC power supply.

- Equipment should be cooled by the cabinet rather than requiring it's own fans. Simply seal the racks with a partition between the front and back, force air out the back with several large, redundant, efficient, and quiet fans.

- Make the cabinets shallower, by at least 1/2, and remove the rear access to them so they can be back to back. All ports could be on the sides of the equipment, with power on one side and data on the other. And the cables would run in vertical channels between cabinets. The equipment would be shallow but tall, meaning things that are currently shallow (patch panels, switches, etc.) would actually waste less space. Things that are currently deep would be made shallow by making them taller, eliminating the need for rails, the need to pull servers out to do maintenance, etc. Additionally the greater vertical footprint would provide more potential for cartridge type maintenance... things like raid controllers, processors, ram modules, etc. could be replaced without screws in carriers like hard drives in most servers. The height would also increase the equipment's exposure to cooling air, shoving enough vents in a 1U server is tough, imagine if the server were 2u but 1/2 as deep... or 3u but 1/3 as deep, you could have more vents, more airflow, and less need for high velocity noisy cooling. Finally, because we would be placing two cabinets in the floor space of one, our density would increase as equipment continued to get smaller. More and more space in cabinets is being wasted because equipment is shallower. Or engineers are making poor design decisions in order to keep things flat and deep to keep densities high.

I'm sure I could come up with more, but those few things would really help to increase density and improve cooling, maintenance, and noise levels in data centers.

Interesting (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 6 years ago | (#25061795)

The paradigm for data center cooling has been based so far on the mainframe model - great big equipment that needs meticulous care. But with the advent of commodity equipment, it's easier to just throw the damned thing away. Dust and humidity control are pretty trivial - 35% filters are fine, and as long as the interior is non-condensing, humidity can be whatever.

90 Degrees? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25061851)

Using today's beefy servers, wouldn't the room be over 90 degrees all the time?

Outside air not so harsh (4, Insightful)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 6 years ago | (#25061855)

Well, it makes sense. Normal PCs run on essentially ambient air, and live for years even under heavy loads (games put a lot of load on systems) despite all the dust and cruft. Servers aren't that different in their hardware, so it makes sense they'd behave similarly. And there's a lot that can be done cheaply to reduce the problems that were seen. Dust, for instance. You can filter and scrub dust from the incoming air a lot cheaper than running a full-on AC system. In fact the DX system used on the one side of the test probably scrubbed the incoming air itself, which would explain the lower failure rate there. Reduce the dust, you reduce the build-up of the thermal-insulating layer on the equipment and keep cooling effectiveness from degrading. Humidity control can also be done cheaper than full-on AC, and wouldn't have to be complete. I don't think you'd need to hold humidity steady within tight parameters, just keep the maximum from going above say 50% and the minimum from going below 5%. Again I'll bet the DX system did just that automatically. I'd bet you could remove the sources of probably 80% of the extra failures on the free-cooling side while keeping 90% of the cost savings in the process.

Re:Outside air not so harsh (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062351)

Um, who plays an high intensive game 24/7 for years? and no, WoW isn't that intensive.

Re:Outside air not so harsh (1)

i_liek_turtles (1110703) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062529)

It is if you're from Korea

Only ten months? (4, Interesting)

ManiaX Killerian (134390) | more than 6 years ago | (#25061859)

The standard replacement cycle is about three years, so until they try that, this doesn't mean a lot. Also, what was the density of the data center? I still love the story of a datacenter with some DSLAMs that cooled left to right which were put next to each other in about 12 racks and the rightmost one caught fire once a week...

Also, I don't know the climate there, but in the regular climate here where it goes between -10 and +35 celsius (that's between 14 and 95 fahrenheit) and there's a good dose of humidity, the failure rate might be somewhat bigger...

Re:Only ten months? (1)

iamhigh (1252742) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062005)

So true! Anyone with a background in unairconditioned manufacturing plants can tell you that new computers do just fine in rough conditions, but after a few years you will get power supply failure rates out the ass! Give them DC power inputs, standardized, please (but you KNOW intel won't do that - they don't even use standardized front panel connectors) and you might see the failure rate reduced even further.

Re:Only ten months? (3, Informative)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062187)

So true! Anyone with a background in unairconditioned manufacturing plants can tell you that new computers do just fine in rough conditions, but after a few years you will get power supply failure rates out the ass! Give them DC power inputs, standardized, please (but you KNOW intel won't do that - they don't even use standardized front panel connectors) and you might see the failure rate reduced even further.

Almost all data centers are designed with A/C in mind. This means that as long as A/C is pulling the load no one needs to worry about well designed buildings. As soon as you are challenged with having to design for reduced A/C usage that you end up thinking smarter and how passive systems can do the same thing. Another advantage of trying to design without A/C is that you won't find your servers frying because of an air conditioner failure.

Below are some links on passive solutions to cooling. Some of the techniques are surprisingly old, but effective:
  - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passive_cooling [wikipedia.org]
  - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windcatcher [wikipedia.org]
  - http://www.arabrise.org/articles/A040105S.pdf [arabrise.org]
 

Humidity in New Mexico... (1)

Chris Snook (872473) | more than 6 years ago | (#25061877)

...doesn't fluctuate that much, and is nearly always very low. I'd be very curious to see how a similar experiment goes in a place like Florida, that's at least as hot and much more humid.

Re:Humidity in New Mexico... (1)

SgtAaron (181674) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062533)

The SW US experiences a monsoon season during the late summer and early fall, and the humidity can certainly shoot up. Having been there during those periods, I can attest to the powerful thunderstorms, as well.

The monsoon mostly affects northern Mexico, but can and does often spill over to Arizona and New Mexico. And, the article states:

During the 10-month test, Intel found that the machines cooled by outside air experienced humidity variations from four percent to more than 90 percent, and that it changed rapidly at times. Moreover, "the servers and the interior of the compartment became covered in a layer of dust."

Numbers don't quite add up! (2, Informative)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 6 years ago | (#25061891)

If they're paying ten cents a kilowatt-hour, that 10MW data center is paying about $9M/yr for power.
Cooling systems move about 15 times the power than what they draw. So the savings for a 10MW datacenter would be around $600K. Wonder how they came up with $2.9M ?

Re:Numbers don't quite add up! (3, Informative)

ManiaX Killerian (134390) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062127)

What kind of air-conditioning is that? Here the rule of thumb looks like this - 10KW of electricity produce 7KW of heat, and it takes one-third of that (2.333KW) in electricity to move it out. Do you have any sources on this?:)

Re:Numbers don't quite add up! (2, Informative)

rcw-home (122017) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062181)

Cooling systems move about 15 times the power than what they draw.

Not quite. If you're thinking of SEER, it's a bastardized ratio with BTUs/hour on one side and Watts on the other. Since there's 3.413 BTUs/h in one watt, a 15 SEER AC unit moves 4.4 times as much power as it draws (that is, it has a Coefficient of Performance, or COP, of 4.4).

Re:Numbers don't quite add up! (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062211)

15 times, not really. Traditional calculations were about 2 to 1, really efficient datacenter cooling today can reach about 5 to 1. I guess their equipment was somewhat older so they were doing about 3 to 1 in their large datacenter.

Re:Numbers don't quite add up! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25062349)

where are your 15 COP cooling systems? aren't most around 3 or so?

Humidity (2, Informative)

Egdiroh (1086111) | more than 6 years ago | (#25061907)

This is just speculation, but isn't much of new mexico rather arid? So this study is not actually useful for people who need to build data centers in more humid places then new mexico which I think includes most of the places there are actually people.

But if you are going to allow for an arbitrarily re-locatable data center, what does it matter that it can handle 90 degree whether when you can move it somewhere cold enough that you can have a humidity controlled room that gets passive cooling from the exterior.

Re:Humidity (5, Interesting)

pla (258480) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062337)

So this study is not actually useful for people who need to build data centers in more humid places then new mexico

Humidity only really matters for two reason - If too low, you get a lot of static buildup, and if too high, you get condensation.

Condensation only tends to happen on objects cooler than ambient, which doesn't really apply to running servers. Static matters a lot more, but you can raise humidity a lot cheaper than you can lower it, so, not as much of an issue there.

And as a bonus, more humid air can carry away more heat than the same volume of less humid air.

They will have to wait longer to get failures (3, Insightful)

Bender Unit 22 (216955) | more than 6 years ago | (#25061925)

I'd say that they will have to wait longer to get failures. Try to have a server running in that enviroment for 5 years and then we will see. I would not do it without having some good filters. But for a test it is a interesting experiment.

For datacenters in colder climates, you can already get cooling systems that cools the water using air only when the temperature is below a certain temperature(just forgot the number). When it gets above that level the water gets cooled like you normally do.
At work our old AC system was old and needed to be replaced and the new one does that. The outside temperature is so low that the water will be cooled with just air for half the year.
It was more expensive to install since it needed more and bigger cooling units(I belive they also talked about bigger slower fans that used less power) when just using air but it pays itself in a few years.

Another interesting experiment would be to use the heat again. I dont know if the water temperature is high enough so that you could use heat exchangers, perhaps as the first step on heating ingoing cold water.

Re:They will have to wait longer to get failures (1)

Maniacal (12626) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062517)

I'd say that they will have to wait longer to get failures. Try to have a server running in that enviroment for 5 years and then we will see.

In 5 years you would save 14.35 million according to his calculations. You could probably spring for some replacement servers :)

I always thought... (1)

jhfry (829244) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062001)

that 'air conditioning' 'air cooling'.

Sure it's great to have the air cool and all... but I thought that dehumidification was important too?

Free Cooling (1)

raijinsetsu (1148625) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062013)

Can anyone think of a reason not to build these things underground?
The typical ambient temperature 6ft down is 60f or 16c. With proper ventilation (think solar-powered fans) and using the walls as heat-pipes, I'm sure you could keep the temperature down with little to no energy cost.

Re:Free Cooling (1)

Verdatum (1257828) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062197)

This technique is used. Also datacenters are built into caves & abandoned mines for the same reason. The reason it isn't done more often is that digging a hole is a pain. Yes, in the long run it generally pays for itself (costs to dig underground vary based on the geology of the region), but when was the last time you bolted out the door to buy new higher efficiency windows? Also, it's better to cycle air or some liquid through a hole in the ground over just straight up "burying" some servers....makes it a bit hard to maintain if you have to design some custom chassie, or use a crane every time you wanna swap a HDD.

Groundwater cooling works too (1)

JungleBoy (7578) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062037)

I work at the University of Montana and we talked a bit about direct venting our server rooms. Right now the big push is for ground water cooling. All new buildings on campus must use ground water cooling. Unfortunately, this is starting to hit the wall.

A fellow sysadmin across campus was having a new server room designed, the tons of cooling for his system just got down rated because the groundwater has been warming up with all the new ground source cooling wells.

But in Canada... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25062043)

But I bet in parts of Canada you could do this with no added A/C.

Re:But in Canada... (1)

StrategicIrony (1183007) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062131)

a good portion of canada rarely, if ever, gets above 80F, even on a hot August day. And generally stays below 60F fore 10 months of the year.

Sounds like a perfect candidate for venting to the outside.

ServerFAX (1)

iamhigh (1252742) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062085)

Awesome new business idea for someone out there. Now you need to pay $30 before buying a used computer to see if it was in any "air economizers" before the jerks sold it. Nobody wants a computer that's been beat to crap for 3-5 years.

"Only when the temperature exceeded 90 degrees" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25062097)

Exactly - the 65 degree server room is a waste of money. The only use for it is so the server guy can be comfortable while taking his nap.

Ah HA! (1)

Underfoot (1344699) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062115)

Ah HA!

So that's the reason for all this "Global Warming". Intel was using the atmosphere as a heat sink. Should have known.

corepirate nazis; public can get by with nothing (-1, Offtopic)

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Why not build in a cooler climate? (1)

smallmj (69620) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062207)

To reduce AC needs, why not build the datacentre in say St John's NFLD. Never gets too hot there. Of course there is a tad more humidity.

Mark

crazy ... did they even think about global warming (-1, Troll)

Surt (22457) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062223)

Why don't we just encourage everyone to cool their homes with external air while we're at it, and shoot for a 10C change in global average temperature instead of the measly 3c we're trying for in the next century?

Re:crazy ... did they even think about global warm (1)

mikeee (137160) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062357)

Um... you do realize that AC moves the heat (plus some) into the outside air, it doesn't destroy it, right?

Obviously, the solution is orbital data centers using microwave power links and laser data links. No doubt Google is working on this.

Re:crazy ... did they even think about global warm (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062465)

You are joking, right?
AC units aren't some kind of magic cold machines, they are heat pumps. The heat is going to get dumped outside in either case, it's just a question of whether you'll be dumping heat from the servers or heat from the servers + heat from the AC units.

All cooling systems ultimately rely on dumping heat outside(whether into air, water, or whatever), the trick is to spend as little energy on cooling as you can possibly get away with.

dust. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25062359)

if the "air economizer" where just a tiny
bit more "strong", maybe bubbling the incoming air
in some water would clean it.
you know like blowing bubbles into a coke with a
straw?

Antarctica (4, Interesting)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062361)

Antarctica would be kind of a neat place for a data center. You have all of the cold air you need and there is enough wind for power. Just have to find a way to keep it stable amidst moving ice.

Blame Canada!! (1)

joeAudio (890824) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062401)

Put the data center in Canada where we can use it to heat our igloos. Then when it goes down everyone can sing Blame Canada.

My data center is in Arizona (1)

Maniacal (12626) | more than 6 years ago | (#25062535)

You insensitive clod!
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