Reducing Data Center Cost with an Air Economizer

Reducing Data Center Cost with an Air Economizer
IT Brief: Computer Manufacturing and Energy Efficiency
To challenge established industry assumptions regarding data center cooling, Intel IT conducted a proof of concept (PoC) test that used an air economizer to cool production servers with 100 percent outside air at temperatures of up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (F). With this approach, we could... use an economizer to provide nearly all data center cooling, substantially reducing power consumption. This could potentially reduce annual operating costs by up to USD 2.87 million for a 10-megawatt (MW) data center.

We ran the PoC in a dry, temperate climate over 10 months using about 900 production blade servers, divided equally between two side-by-side compartments. One used standard air conditioning, the other an air economizer.

Servers in the economizer compartment were subjected to considerable variation in temperature and humidity as well as poor air quality; however, there was no significant increase in server failures. If subsequent investigation confirms these promising results, we anticipate using this approach in future high-density data centers.

Data center power consumption is soaring, driven by increasing demand for computing capacity. In a typical data center, 60 to 70 percent of data center power may be used for facilities power and data center cooling. At Intel, our data centers need to support the rapid growth in computing capacity required to design increasingly complex semiconductors. At the same time, we are trying to minimize data center power consumption and operating costs.

Our strategy is based on high-performance, high-density data centers containing thousands of blade servers. These blades deliver considerable computing capacity, but they also generate substantial heat. We supply cooling air to the blades at 68 degrees F; as the air passes over the blades, the air temperature rises by 58 degrees F, resulting in an exit temperature of 126 degrees F. This means that we need to cool the air by 58 degrees F before recirculating it. The air conditioning units required to do this consume a considerable amount of electricity.

Read the full Reducing Data Center Cost Brief.

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