Not every data center can be built in Finland, where near-Arctic winds provide abundant natural cooling. What can a data center operator do in a hot, humid country like Korea?
Find a way to run the data center at a higher ambient temperature, of course.
Korea Telecom and Intel have unveiled a new test center that will allow servers to operate at an ambient temperature of 30 degrees Celsius. That’s a notable increase over the typical ambient data-center temperature of 22 degrees. If the test proves successful, the technology could be extended to the carrier’s ten data centers across the country, reported the Korea Times.
Minimizing power usage within a data center is obviously a critical concern. Less than half the power used by a typical data centers powers the actual IT equipment; the rest goes to supporting infrastructure including cooling systems, UPS inefficiencies, power distribution losses and lighting.
This year, the power costs for data center equipment over its useful lifespan will exceed the cost of the original capital investment, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
According to KT and Intel, for every degree that they can raise the temperature, KT can save 7 percent in cooling costs (which increased by a further 4.9 percent this month). Implementing the new system to every data center nationwide would save up to 44.8 billion.
The problem, however, is that as the ambient temperature increases, the microprocessor and other components within a server become more prone to errors as the chips overheat past their maximum allowable range. Ways to offset this include circulating air over the servers to cool them, or using water-based techniques such as with the IBM Aquasar.
(Interestingly, the most power-hungry component within the data center is the lowly RAM chip. Joint research by IBM, Samsung and Dell found that memory consumes 22 percent of power and represents 50 percent of the overall bill of materials for a typical data center.)
Virtualization only aggravates the situation, improving the per-CPU efficiency while keeping the hardware running at near-peak loads. Korea’s government has led efforts to consolidate data centers, recording an estimated $60 million in savings in 2010, helping Korea rank atop the United Nations 2010 e-Government survey.
Intel and KT said that, if the test center proves to be a success, the firms will jointly sell the technology, presumably to other technology firms within the country.
“The cooperation between KT and Intel is to secure a foundation in building a green-energy data center that can save costs and electricity consumption for the rising numbers of such facilities,” Song Jung-hee, senior executive vice president of KT’s service innovation division, wrote in a statement. “We will secure the know-how in making data centers function in high temperatures, and furthermore, open a consulting business in making such centers for domestic and foreign clients.”