NEC Developing “Warm” Server Module

NEC’s diagram for its “warm” server.

An NEC-led consortium has developed a server that uses warmer air to cool itself, potentially saving data centers a significant amount of energy and money.

Four companies—NEC Corporation, Toyo Netsu Kogyo Kaisha Limited, NEC Fielding Ltd., and NSK Ltd.—are refining the server, which is designed to consume 20 percent to 30 percent less energy than a “standard” model, thanks to a hybrid system that combines natural ventilation, mechanical ventilation, and air conditioning to make the most of natural energy. The consortium is aiming for the end of NEC’s fiscal year 2013 (or March 31, 2013) as a target date for the technology.

The proposed solution houses the server within shipping containers of various sizes—which, as ComputerWorld points out, is the preferred architecture model for space-constrained Japanese data centers. The module would include an air inlet at the bottom of the rack to introduce outside air at the external ambient temperature. Waste heat would be vented up and behind the server, creating a “chimney effect” that would suck the cooler air in without the need for a fan. The proposed module would be 6 meters high, with racks consuming 6 to 8 kilowatts, according to a mechanically translated NEC press release from Japan.

The basic premise of the module is a simple one: save money by using warmer air.

Traditional data from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) suggests that data center operators run their facilities in a recommended range of between 18 and 27 degrees Celsius, with a looser allowable range of between 10 and 35 degrees C. But as the Green Grid pointed out at the end of October, there’s little data that says data centers absolutely must use mechanically chilled air. Instead, a series of studies suggest that warmer air may be used, if the data-center operator is willing to trade the increased possibility of server failure in exchange for lower power use and thus lower TCO costs.

NEC found that the server could use outside air about 68 percent of the time in northern Sapporo, with overall power savings of around 63 percent.

 

Image: NEC

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