HP Gets Smart About Cooling

Dynamic Smart Cooling aims to save data centers millions of dollars.
Posted November 29, 2006

David Needle

PALO ALTO, Calif. – HP previewed a new energy management system the company said could save corporations as much as $1 million per data center per year, or up to 20 to 45 percent of the cost to keep those data centers cool.

At a press event here at HP Labs, company officials said it took several years of development to create the Dynamic Smart Cooling (DSC) system. The system uses advanced software residing in an intelligent control node to continuously adjust air conditioning settings based on real-time air temperature measurements from a network of sensors placed on server racks.

While there is nothing particularly special about setting up a network of sensors, HP (Quote) said its R&D efforts were spent mainly on figuring out how to measure air flow and temperature and have the system adapt quickly. HP said it has applied for several patents related to the project. The team working on the DSC initiative includes over 100 HP engineers with a budget of over $10 million per year.

DSC is designed to actively manage the environment, so more cooling is sent to overheated areas and not wasted where it's not needed. As much as 85 percent of the cooling capacity in the world's data centers is over-provisioned, according to HP. Energy efficiency and cost concerns and have become a huge issue for IT.

Paul Perez, HP's vice president of storage, networks and infrastructure, said the initial target is companies with the most data center space. "By late 2008 and 2009 we'll be moving more to the mid-market and from hundreds of customers to thousands," said Perez.

Beyond implementation at its own data centers, HP doesn't plan initial customer deployments till the spring of 2007, with full availability slated for that summer. According to industry estimates sited by Perez, there are about 27,000 data centers worldwide with another 10,000 being planned over the next two years. HP sees an opportunity to win new customers with its DSC initiative and to upgrade existing ones.

No pricing information is available at this time. Perez said he thought payback on the hardware and software costs related to DSC could be achieved in the first six to nine months. "Most customers we've talked to found the pricing as exciting as the solution itself," he said.

The sensors and other equipment related to DSC is designed to fit with and work with standard racks and other data center equipment, making it theoretically attractive to both HP and non-HP shops.

Analyst Adam Braunstein with Robert Francis Group agrees with HP's basic premise that a lot of energy is being wasted in the data center. "There is a huge amount of over-provisioning and the IT department really doesn't know where all the air is going, they just want to be sure the servers don't overheat," Braunstein told internetnews.com. "That's also why a lot of racks aren't fully utilized."

HP claims DSC allows full rack utilization, which it demoed at its own in-house data center during the event. Reporters were also shown how the system automatically adjusted the cooling air flow to compensate for a cardboard box that was placed over an air vent.

This article was first published on InternetNews.com. To read the full article, click here.

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