Data Center Heat Wave

Blade servers are getting hot in data centers, but not necessarily in a good way

April 10, 2004

2 Min Read
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LAS VEGAS -- It's not quite time to bust out the flame-retardant suits, but the latest server technologies run the risk of crippling data centers because of the massive amount of heat they are generating.

This was a hot topic (okay, enough already) here at this week's Afcom Data Center World conference. Mark Evanko, principal engineer of design specialist Bruns-Pak said newer blade servers and high-end "super-servers" from vendors such as IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)and Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) are generating large amounts of heat that must be handled properly to avoid catastrophic shutdowns -- or worse.

Evanko warns, If the heat is not dissipated properly, it will actually shut the computers down, and then we talk about interruption of operation that could be catastrophic.”

Data center managers should address the issue as a matter of urgency, according to Evanko. He says, “Do a study immediately to see whether, in fact, your existing facility infrastructure can support what the new technology is going to be able to do.”

Cooling, therefore, became a topic at the conference. One delegate, who manages a data center in the manufacturing industry, says, “From a data center facilities standpoint, cooling is a major issue for a lot of people because of the blade servers.”In a presentation at the Afcom event, Domenic Alvaro, director of availability consulting and services at American Power Conversion Corp., came up with a number of possible solutions to this dilemma.

These include using a technique called "hot-aisle-cold-aisle" in data center design, which can help channel hot air away from the servers. Alvaro also suggested the use of “hot air scavenging systems” that collect hot air at the point of generation and route it directly to an air conditioning unit.

But, crucially, users should be prepared to balance their blade server load across the data center. Alvaro says this can be attained by interspersing high-power servers with those that consume less power.

One of the big drivers of this issue, is new high-power blade servers that use as much as 15kW of power. The 15kW blade servers can be purchased and installed in a single rack today. However, Alvaro warned that some users will attempt to install this equipment in data centers where the industry average load is 1.4kW per rack.

— James Rogers, Site Editor, Next-gen Data Center Forum0

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