Blades heat up cooling issue

Dense deployments of blade computers and the virtualisation and consolidation that drive their adoption are creating new challenges for data centre managers. If your storage lives there, read on to understand the new power and heat issues you'll soon confront.

Data center operators should prepare to cope with a massive increase in the heat output of their computer, networking and storage equipment, according to a host of experts speaking at an Emerson Network Power seminar in Canberra today.

"Most data centers must last ten years," Intel Solution Services' Barry Williams told the event. "Most are also ten or twenty years old," and are therefore ill equipped to cope with the power requirements of newer equipment such as blade servers.

This translates into a situation where the drive towards consolidation and virtualisation brings large numbers of densely-packed computers into data centers that struggle to deliver them the electricity they need to operate reliably. The move to VoIP is also increasing power requirements, by bringing more equipment into network racks and working routers and other communications devices harder.

The businesses that operate the data centers will therefore soon find that power bills become a significant financial irritant.

Williams said users should therefore increasingly turn to equipment with lower power requirements and will need to plan data centre implementations to take advantage of this technology.

"Users will need a roadmap and an understanding of this technology to build the data center of the future," he said.

Users will also, said Mark Deguara, Emerson Network Power's National Product Manager for Cooling Products, need to prepare to deal with the increased heat emitted by denser deployments of blade servers.

"Today most data centers are coping with blades by spreading them around the data centre to spread the heat load," Deguara says. "Either that or they lower the temperature of the room."

The latter practice, he said, is particularly wasteful. "Lowering the temperature of the data centre to 18 or 19 degrees is a huge waste of energy ," he says. "Why cool the space instead of cooling the source of the heat?"

Deguara therefore advocates "extreme density cooling" that sees equipment cooled at the source with "closed" architectures that cool local devices rather than trying to cool a whole room.

The move to extreme density cooling, he says, will also help with overall power management issues as it can consume less electricity than other strategies.

Citing Emerson data, he stated that extreme density cooling can consume 9% less power than other strategies.

"That means 9% of the available power returned to the data center to use on IT equipment," he said, expressing the hope that this will assist the trend of consolidated data centers housing more and more of an enterprise's IT.

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