Dell servers take the chill off datacentres

New Fresh Air technology will allow Dell's servers to run at up to 45°C, allowing customers to use more free-air cooling in their datacentres, the company has said
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Dell has unveiled a technology that allows its servers to run safely for brief periods at temperatures up to 45°C, which it says could help customers use more air-cooling in their datacentres.

The Dell Fresh Air technology, announced on Thursday, is being integrated into its new server, storage and networking equipment to make it easier to build chiller-free datacentres, the company explained.

"Many organisations, particularly those in the cloud-services business, are focused on driving much greater efficiencies in their datacentre operations," server platform manager Forrest Norrod said in a statement. "Dell datacentre technologies with Fresh Air capability allow... improvements in energy consumption... even in datacentres that have already been economised with respect to cooling."

With free-air cooling, datacentres rely on circulating air pulled from outside to keep servers below a certain temperature. Once the performance threshold temperature is reached, the servers are turned off or cooling techniques, such as chillers, are used to bring the temperature down again. If the servers have a warranty to operate at a higher temperature, the point at which the chillers are turned on comes later.

The Fresh Air systems can, according to the manufacturer, tolerate up to 900 hours of 40°C operation per year and up to 90 hours of 45°C operation per year, making it possible to avoid having to incorporate chiller plants altogether in some climates. It will give a warranty to its servers to run at these temperatures — the highest in the industry, according to Dell.

The company noted that the EU Code of Conduct for Data Centres "challenges IT manufacturers to increase their allowable environmental limits and sets a goal of enabling chiller-less facility designs", and that new designs used by the likes of Google, Facebook and Yahoo demonstrate a shift towards chiller-free datacentres cooled only by fresh air.

However, Dell said, the standard maximum operating temperature of 35°C limits where such datacentres can be built without requiring a backup chiller facility.

"To meet the needs of a broader range of companies interested in employing more efficient and economical facility designs, Dell has validated a portfolio of servers, storage, networking and power infrastructure that deliver short-term, excursion-based operation with limited impact on performance across a larger environmental window," the company said.

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