HP plans for more efficiently cooled data centres

It’s getting hot in data centres around the world, but Hewlett-Packard Co. has come up with a “smart” cooling analysis service that places cooling resources where they are needed the most, the company said Tuesday.

HP is working on two programs for cooling management, static smart cooling and dynamic smart cooling. Dynamic cooling management, where an outside company such as HP constantly monitors and adjusts airflow in server rooms, is still a few years away from becoming reality, said Brian Donabedian, site planner and environmental specialist for HP.

Heat has always been a problem in server rooms and data centres, but denser rack and blade servers coupled with faster processors are making the heat problem even more pronounced. Businesses are also looking to cut the amount of electricity needed to power both the servers and the cooling technology, which can become extremely expensive for companies with large networks.

Right now, roughly 15 per cent of data centres in the U.S. are looking for more efficient ways to cool their systems, but that number is expected to grow as IT departments upgrade to newer equipment, Donabedian said. To be safe, most of those businesses currently overcool their server rooms to ensure their expensive systems continue to function normally, he said.

With a smart cooling analysis, IT managers can learn whether they are wasting energy through general overcooling, when targeted cooling of a certain area of the data centre would be more efficient, Donabedian said.

The project is the result of a combined development effort from HP Labs and HP Services, Donabedian said. The services arm of the Palo Alto, Calif., company will collect data such as floor area, server requirements, and other numerical data, and bring it back to HP Labs for specialized testing to determine the best location for cooling technology.

HP measures the airflow patterns in a server room, the placement of cooling technologies such as air conditioners or raised-floor cooling ducts, and the overall size of the room, and crunches that data in a complex modeling software program that creates a 3D image of the room, the servers, and the pattern of hot and cool air around the equipment.

By directing the flow of cold air to the locations in a server room that require it the most, businesses can avoid wasting electricity and money on overcooling, Donabedian said.

HP has completed an analysis for the computer animation company PDI/Dreamworks, and is in the process of working with Pacific Northwest National Laboratories to assess its needs, Donabedian said. Financial and scientific companies are also potential users of the service, he said.

Pricing for the service has not been finalized, but will depend on a number of factors, including the size of the room, the number of servers needed to cool, and the overall complexity of the job, he said.