A new kind of data center claiming to employ “the world’s most efficient cooling system” turns the traditionally unbearable “hot aisle” between server racks into a rather pleasant air-conditioned hallway, all the while using significantly less energy.
Integrated energy technology company Inertech and construction partner Skanska held a tour of their new data center design last week at Inertech’s headquarters in Danbury, Conn. During the tour, analysts and members of the media walked through a sample hot aisle, which runs between the rear walls of two rows of 60kW server racks filled with fully operating servers.
Though the temperature inside the server racks reached as high as 105 degrees Fahrenheit, which the tour guides proved by briefly opening the rear side of the rack, the aisle itself felt no different than the air-conditioned room where the companies had hosted lunch minutes earlier.
The impressive part, though, is how this feat was accomplished.
Cooling the air while keeping costs low
Dubbed eOpti-Trax, the system reduces energy usage through air circulation in the server aisles. A traditional method of data center cooling is based on the raised-floor design, through which an under-floor air distribution system pushes cold air up and into the server racks. Forcing cold air upward requires heavy use of fans, which consume high amounts of energy.
The eOpti-Trax cooling system works from the inside out. The rear side of the servers generates the most hot air, hence the name “hot aisle” for the area located behind it. In the eOpti-Trax system, the heat is absorbed in a 1.25-inch cooling coil lining the inside of the rear walls of the server racks. This coil operates without a compressor. The compressor system, which is common in traditional data centers, cools the air through an evaporation method, consuming massive amounts of water in the process.
The result is an air-conditioned hot aisle where data center engineers have long endured unbearable temperatures to access wiring and other equipment. The companies claim that tests have shown air can be cooled from 160 degrees Fahrenheit inside the server rack to 75 degrees in the hot aisle.
From there, the cooling system allows the air to distribute itself naturally throughout the hot aisle, employing just two fans to help draw the cooled air into the front of the server racks, or the “cool aisle.”
The companies claim the system requires just 0.5 watts of energy to cool a 300-watt server, compared to the 90 watts needed to cool the same size server with traditional chiller system. Additionally, eOpti-Trax uses estimated 80% less water than more common cooling systems.
As more companies feel the need to expand data centers, the cost benefits of energy efficiency will become more appealing. The question that remains is whether green technology is enough to persuade potential customers.
Interest is high, but barriers to adoption have been a major roadblock.
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