NEC has announced that it is developing a data center module whose form factor is similar to container data centers, but feature a unique cooling technology that could dramatically slash energy usage.
At this time, the company claims that it has build prototypes that use convection cooling: The concept is based on the idea to use the temperature difference of the air outside the container and the air near the servers to create the necessary energy to move air.
An already existing energy source would therefore complement the need to power cooling units and even provide a cooling effect itself. The prototype construction consists of an 18-foot long container, housing up to six racks of 8 kW servers. In the future, NEC intends to downsize the container and build smaller containers, which is necessary in environments with space constraints.
NEC conceded that convection cooling is not a new concept, but adjustments in the recommendation at which conditions servers should operate make the idea much more feasible in Japan: Data centers typically operate under the old American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning (ASHRAE) guidelines from 2004, which state a temperature of 20 to 25 degrees Celsius for enterprise servers, as well as 40 to 50 percent humidity. The changed recommendations are 15 to 32 degrees Celsius, and 20 to 80 percent humidity.
If proven effective, the concept of convection cooling may become much more popular in other geographies as well.
Earlier this year IBM filed a patent application that also uses a container cooling process that uses a "corrugated external skin of the container" as well as "finned piping" in the insulation layer, both of which use the container shell as a heatsink to dissipate hot air.
Wolfgang GruenerWolfgang Gruener is a contributor to Tom's IT Pro. He is currently principal analyst at Ndicio Research, a market analysis firm that focuses on cloud computing and disruptive technologies, and maintains the conceivablytech.com blog. An 18-year veteran in IT journalism and market research, he previously published TG Daily and was managing editor of Tom's Hardware news, which he grew from a link collection in the early 2000s into one of the most comprehensive and trusted technology news sources.
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