Warmth and water… Two things that don’t fit the brisk and bone dry image of a data center.
But the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), along with HP and Intel, are blazing new trails in IT efficiency with a novel data center cooling system based on warm water for a new high-performance computing (HPC) site called the Energy Systems Integration Facility. Steve Hammond, NREL Computational Science Director, told Enterprise Networking Planet’s Sean Michael Kerner:
“The classic data center has lots of cold air that is approximately 60 degrees supplied to the front of the racks, in an effort to help keep your chips from getting hotter than 150 degrees,” Hammond said. “Then you get 80 degree hot air out of the back of the racks and you try to eject that heat and declare victory.”
Hammond explained that in contrast, the NREL approach will supply water that is approximately 75 degrees and then after running through the servers, will return water that is 95 degrees. That return water will then be the primary heating source for the building.
The warm water system — courtesy of HP — drives efficiency because water is a much better conductor of heat than air, even at a relatively balmy 75 degrees F versus the chilly 60-ish degree air that CRAC (computer room air conditioning) units blow out. Plus, the pumps that cycle the water through the server racks use less energy than air conditioning fans and NREL plans to use the heated return water as primary heating source for staffers.
While the warm water cooling strategy will help NREL achieve a super-low 1.06 PUE rating — the industry average hovers uncomfortably close to a 2 — it’s not the only innovation propelling this green data center in the making. Kerner reports that Intel’s Xeon Phi HPC chips (each with 50 or more cores!), LAN On Motherboard technology and power-optimized Linux will help NREL make the most of every watt that’s supplied to the data center when it’s completed.
Neat stuff! Catch the full story on the NREL’s new green data center build here.
Images Courtesy of NREL and SmithGroup