APC pumps fresh air into datacentres

It's a tough ask, basing a business on fresh air -- but that's what APC is now doing.After years of selling its InfrastruXure range of datacentre products, which plug together to provide an enclosed cooling design for rack-mounted servers, APC is now saying that fresh air is what you need to cool your computers.

It's a tough ask, basing a business on fresh air -- but that's what APC is now doing.

After years of selling its InfrastruXure range of datacentre products, which plug together to provide an enclosed cooling design for rack-mounted servers, APC is now saying that fresh air is what you need to cool your computers. And it costs no more than a normal cooling system. At least, that's according to chief innovation officer and company founder Neil Rasmussen, talking at the DatacenterDynamics conference last week.

According to Rasmussen, the new product, dubbed EcoBreeze, is designed for new build datacentres and consists of a modular cooling system that allows only two temperatures of air in the facility: ambient and hot. Using a traditional hot aisle-cold aisle system you can find cool air, hot air, and a mixture of the two.

APC reckons that EcoBreeze is designed to switch automatically between air-to-air and indirect evaporative heat exchange to provide consistent, efficient cooling. Like other ambient air cooling systems, it uses evaporation to cool the ambient air, which can be as high as 25 degrees before additional power is needed.

Rasmussen reckons the system can achieve a PUE -- that's power usage effectiveness, a metric invented by the Green Grid industry consortium -- of 1.3 at a 40 percent load factor, rather than the old one-to-one ratio between the energy needed to keep the servers, storage and networks running, and the amount of energy consumed to remove the heat generated, a PUE of 2. This is increasingly critical not just for cost reasons but because power consumption is a key barrier to the building of bigger, more efficient facilities containing increasing numbers of computers, as the amount of power the local utility can deliver is a limiting factor in many installations.

We've seen fresh air cooling before of course -- I reported on the Bladeroom system here on this blog a few months back. What's different about this system is that it's external. According to Rasmussen, nothing else needs to go into the box other than a supply duct and a plenum above the racks, as the cooling system lives outside the facility.

It works by sensing and measuring the difference between the pressures of supplied and returned air and responding accordingly. The cooling air is recycled (that's the indirect part), in order to avoid the possibility of external contaminants, and is cooled via a heat exchanger.

Rasmussen said that the main challenge was humidity, which was hard to remove efficiently so, while the system would work well in London, in Scotland or during humid spells in New York, it would not be so efficient. He also reckons there's no cost premium for the system compared to more traditional designs, and that it will get cheaper as economies of scale kick in. EcoBreeze includes redundancy, though you can add more units for n+1.

"HP has just launched a very similar flexible datacentre -- it's almost the same," he told me. "This is where the thinking is going and the industry will converge on this kind of design. They say that this kind of system should cost less - we think so too."

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