Dell chills out with Fresh Air cooling technology

The move signals further support for "chiller-less" data center design approaches. A site supporting Microsoft's Bing Maps services is among first to embrace new solution.

Further proof that the lines between information technology and building technology are blurring: Dell has introduced an integrated "chiller-less" data center solution.

The move also signals more support for the notion that data centers need to better employ fresh air cooling technologies -- a philosophy that has also been embraced by giant Internet cloud service providers including Google and Yahoo. In fact, one of the first sites to use Dell's new approach is an image processing microsite that serves up information for Microsoft's Bing Maps service.

The Dell Fresh Air cooling technology is intended to help organizations run their data centers at higher temperatures; in theory, up to 113 degrees Fahrenheit. It is an integrated solution that includes servers, storage and networking equipment, operating under guidelines set out by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (affectionately known as ASRAE).

Said Forrest Norrod, vice president and general manager of server platforms for Dell:

"Many organizations, particularly those in the cloud services business, are focused on driving much greater efficiencies in their data center operations. Dell data center technologies with Fresh Air capability allow for aggressive improvements in energy consumption and the resulting operational costs, even in data centers that have already been economized with respect to cooling. The total Fresh Air solution, with thermal, reliability and system engineering fully validated, is based on advanced engineering and design."

Dell says its new approach has been tested to tolerate up to 900 hours of 104 degree Fahrenheit operation per year; up to 90 hours at 113 degrees Fahrenheit. The allowable humidity it can support is 5 percent to 90 percent. Dell notes that in certain circumstances, chiller plant capital expenditures can be eliminated. It cites resulting operational expense savings of up to $100,000 per megawatt of information technology.

It is worth noting that Dell is part of the Facebook Open Compute Project, which is the social network giant's big push to make its energy efficiency techniques "open" to others in the cloud services industry.

One of the first sites to use Dell's new solution is a microsite for Bing Maps that supports the service's aerial and satellite images. Microsoft's networking partner, Mellanox, was also involved in designing the site. The site could eventually run at a power usage effectiveness (PUE) of 1.03, according to Dell.

You can expect the Dell consulting services team to be trumpeting this approach loudly, in locations where it makes sense. Are we soon going to see a major shift in data center site decisions as the fresh air approach gets more airtime?

Definitely something to watch.