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Beating the Heat in IT

For many people, summer is a time to spend outdoors and enjoying the weather, but for IT managers, soaring temperatures underline the need for efficient cooling.

More vendors are jumping on the power and cooling bandwagon, including American Power Conversion, CA, Egenera, HP, IBM, Knurr, and Liebert (which is part of Emerson Network Power). Users face a bewildering array of technologies for keeping the heat down in their data centers, from water-based technologies to purpose-built racks for controlling airflow. (See The Green Monster, The Big Chill, IBM Chills Out, APC Helps Sisters of Mercy, HP Boasts Cooler BladeCenter, and HP Cuts Power & Cooling.)

As the thermometer pushes toward 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the effect on server and storage devices can be significant, according to Jon Drake, director of technologies at the Legacy Bank of Texas. "For every 18 degrees over 70, you increase your failure rate by 25 percent," he says, explaining that equipment processors are typically 10 to 15 degrees hotter than the outside air temperature.

The Plano, Texas-based bank uses a specialized air-conditioning device from American Power Conversion within its data center to put a lid on its heat production. Sitting within a row of racks, NetworkAIR uses a cooling technique called "hot aisle/cold aisle" that draws warm air from the space between two rows of servers, cools it, and then pumps it into the designated cold aisle. "Once you reach a certain size, I believe that you have to [have a specialized cooling] system," says Drake, who has about 60 servers in his data center.

A recent report from the U.K.'s National Computing Center revealed that 86 percent of users cite cooling as a major storage concern, but warned that space is also fast becoming a major challenge for many firms. (See Users Voice Cooling Concerns.)

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