One of the ways Yahoo saves energy in its data centers is by keeping the temperature a rather balmy 75 degrees F in the data center. (Most data centers keep their AC’s cranking year-round to keep temps much cooler, dipping well into the 60’s.) The servers can handle it — and it saves a bunch in cooling costs — but there’s a catch.
When temperatures creep toward the 80 degree F mark, internal server fans kick into high gear, negating some of the energy savings achieved by keeping the data center warm to begin with. Plus, there’s no hiding from the relentless, all-encompassing noise. According to this article in Environmental Leader, Yahoo is looking to exert granular control of server fans with custom rack and server designs and is working with vendors to reposition fans for better airflow.
But not all IT shops have Yahoo’s resources and custom racks are out of the question. What then? Let’s talk about smart variable speed fans.
Already some data center operators are employing smart fans (so to speak) to drive down energy costs, albeit on a larger scale. i/o Data Centers in Arizona uses strategically placed, variable-speed fans to help distribute air in its data center and save money. Instead of allowing fans to whir at relentlessly high speeds, the company’s cooling system takes stock of the facility via sensors and spins the fans only as fast as is required to chill an area.
Back at the rack, all major server vendors offer servers with variable speed fans. Nothing new. However, few offer fine-grained control. One exception is IBM’s energy management platform. Despite the tech, we may still need bold new server design strategies to cut the energy drain from internal fans. However, if Yahoo’s willingness to try non-conventional approaches to improving IT energy efficiency, it may very well succeed.