Vendors' approval will liberate third-party server cooling tech

Dominant server makers such as Hewlett-Packard need to approve third-party cooling technologies, which, in turn, will allow enterprise customers to reap improved energy and cost savings, says analyst.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

Third-party server cooling companies would do well to get the blessings of server vendors such as Hewlett-Packard in order to increase the market reach of their products, no matter how innovative these are and the potential costs savings it could provide for enterprise customers, an analyst noted.

According to Avneesh Saxena, group vice president of computing systems, storage and software research at IDC Asia-Pacific, these server cooling providers will have to make sure their offerings fall in line with the hardware makers' conditions in terms of availability and maintenance of the server. Getting approval is "critical" to their success, he said.

There is a chance, though, that the OEMs will approach these cooling providers and partner with them to resolve some of the more difficult customer cases on a case-by-case basis, he added in an e-mail.

An earlier report by the New York Times highlighted two such server cooling companies--Green Revolution Cooling (GRC) and Iceotope--that are promising to cut datacenter power consumption by 45 percent for the former, and reduce cooling costs by up to 93 percent for the latter.

GRC's technology lies in its GreenDEF coolant, which is a mineral oil formulation that can store 1,200 times more heat by volume than air and is a poorer conductor of electricity than PVC or dry wood, according to the company's Web site. The cooling process involves filling a rack enclosure with the mixture and dunking the servers into the enclosure, the New York Times reported.

U.K.-based Iceotope, on the other hand, approaches the datacenter cooling challenge at the component level. According to its Web site, the heat produced by the components inside each server is captured effectively by immersing the server motherboards in individually sealed baths, which is filled with an inert synthetic liquid coolant.

ZDNet Asia got in touch with both companies, which agreed that partnering server manufacturers is a key business thrust for them.

GRC Co-founder Mark Tlapak, for one, said in his e-mail that though the company has yet to obtain a full warranty from an OEM for its cooling system offering, it is working toward achieving at least a "best efforts" warranty from a server vendor to better target large enterprise customers.

In the meantime, GRC is pitching its product at a subset of the market that does not use warranties, he revealed. These customers tend to own custom-built servers or have forfeited their hardware warranty in order to reap the cost savings that the company is offering, added Tlapak.

For customers seeking the assurance of their product warranty, GRC is also offering its cooling product through third-party server hosting companies such as Midas Networks in Texas, U.S., he said.

"The end-user will buy hosted computing service from a third-party host, which, in turn, will use our cooling technology instead of traditional air cooling," said the executive. "The savings from [the] reduced cooling energy and infrastructure is then split between the host and end-user."

Iceotope Director Dan Chester, meanwhile, revealed that the company's business model is to work with partners to bring its technology to market. In an e-mail, he said that there are "many factors beyond cooling" which are essential to make a competitive cooling product and the company recognizes this market reality.

He pointed out that the largest computer manufacturers globally have broad product lines and rigorous reliability and warranty considerations, which represent "many permutations" of server offerings. This, in turn, presents Iceotope with opportunities to work with these OEMs and end-users to "selectively and incrementally integrate new technologies", Chester noted.

"The extent to which new technologies will proliferate will be based on the results from these initial installations," he added.

Lukewarm reactions
However, one server vendor was non-committal toward partnering third-party cooling companies to offer better energy and cost savings.

When quizzed on this, Stephen Bovis, vice president and general manager for industry standard servers at HP Asia-Pacific and Japan, said: "We believe that competition is healthy and necessary in driving innovation in the technological sector. Competition encourages companies to be creative in developing new products, services and technology that meet customer needs."

He went on to note that HP provides "one of the broadest portfolios" of "="" class="c-regularLink" target="_blank" rel="noopener nofollow">ProLiant servers, third-party facility management tools and datacenter power grids, he said.

"By accurately provisioning energy, clients can extend the lives of their data centers and save up to US$5 million per every 1,000 servers in one year," Bovis added.

IDC's Saxena reckons that dominant datacenter players such as HP have nothing to worry from third-party cooling vendors. He said demand for these new cooling solutions will be "moderate at best" in Asia-Pacific because only 20 to 40 percent of enterprise and mid-range datacenter customers currently utilize rack-cooling technologies.

"I think we will continue to see innovative solutions around cooling, but customers are likely to choose [products] that are least disruptive," the analyst noted, adding that customers which have a need for immense compute scalability such as high-performance computing may look to "special solutions" to address their energy consumption and heat dissipation challenges.

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