Intel's Latest Datacenter Discovery: Fresh Air

Research project finds that air brought in from outside the datacenter is just as good as blasting the air conditioner.


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Posted September 19, 2008

Andy Patrizio

A research paper from Intel shows the chip giant figured out what many apartment and home dwellers have known for years: using a fan to pull in cool air from the outside is as good as an air conditioner.

Datacenters have operated on the notion that they must be hermetically sealed from the outside, with all moisture eliminated, and the air conditioning blasting. What Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) found is in a favorable climate, a datacenter can be kept cool by using an air economizer to draw in cooler air from the outside and blow hot air out of the building.

The chip giant ran a 10-month test with a datacenter of 900 servers in New Mexico, not exactly a temperate climate, using air economizers and the outside air to keep the datacenter cool. The 900 blades and racks were run at 90 percent utilization throughout the test.

The temperature of the outside air ranged between 64 and 92 degrees. Air conditioning was used if the outdoor temperature went above 90 degrees and if it dropped below 65 degrees, the air was warmed by recirculating hot air produced by the servers.

Intel made no attempt to control humidity and applied only minimal filtering for dust. As such, humidity in the datacenter ran from four percent to 90 percent, and the servers were covered with a fine layer of dust. Sounds like the computer room in the average household.

The results? "We observed no consistent increase in server failure rates as a result of the greater variation in temperature and humidity, and the decrease in air quality," wrote Don Atwood, a regional datacenter manager and John G. Miner, a senior systems engineer with Intel. "This suggests that existing assumptions about the need to closely regulate these factors bear further scrutiny."

A 74 percent reduction in energy consumption

With the economizer instead of air conditioning, the power draw was reduced from 111.78 kilowatts to 28.6 kilowatts, a 74 percent reduction in energy consumption. The server failure rate was 4.46 percent, not much worse than the 3.83 percent with air conditioning.

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

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