Dell – making green IT real

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Server computing is hot work and I mean it in the literal sense. Processors are putting out huge amounts of heat as they work and if you have been into a stock standard server room then you know it’s kept cold, at what seems like sub arctic temperatures, to compensate for the heat output from the servers. It’s also noisy with the fans on the servers and the room cooling systems whirring away.

During Dell EMC World 2016, I had the opportunity to tour Dell Labs at their Round Rock and Parmer facilities in Austin, Texas and check out the future direction of cooling systems for servers.

While heat management systems might seem boring to some people, Dell actually made theirs look ultra cool in a green, climate saving and science fiction kind of way.

Let’s face it – traditional air cooling systems are inefficient and power hungry. In warm climates like Malaysia, the energy usage is even higher as the warm air needs to be cooled first before it can be pumped into the server room.

A liquid cooling system that uses water, oil or an engineered liquid can be many times more energy efficient than air. Heat transference in an oil or engineered liquid cooling system, where the server blades and racks are immersed in liquid, is 100 percent. No more worrying about servers overheating.

Dell also has a scalable water cooling system for data centres on the market called Triton. Water can transport heat 25 times more efficiently than air. The liquid is circulated via copper pipes laid into the server sleds and pushed out into a cooling tower for heat to be transfered out. As the system runs on the facility’s water pressure, no energy is required to pump water through the sleds.

WATCH VIDEO HERE : “Triton” Overview

For those of you who started hyperventilating in fear at the thought of all that water near precious servers, Dell has added sensors and cutoff switches to the Triton system to detect leaks if they occur and cut off power before it causes damage to the server.

The main selling point for the Triton system however, is the performance gains for the servers. The Triton system is currently in use at eBay, who claim that they have achieved an increase of 70 percent in throughput running Triton and Intel Xeon processors.

However, the coolest kid on the block was the experimental engineered liquid immersion system on display. Imagine your server blade coolly doing its thing – in a quiet room – while it sits in a sealed tank completely covered by a liquid that boils away merrily from the heat generated by the processors.

Dell uses a liquid developed by 3M that has an unusually low volatility point – 49 degrees Celsius for this purpose. It keeps the servers within tolerable temperature parameters and cools itself down when the vaporised liquid reaches the condensation pad at the top of the tank, turns back to liquid and drips back into the tank.

Really cool to see but there are still some bugs to fix before it becomes readily available. Dell needs to develop a sealed rack system to minimise the loss of the liquid when it’s in its vapourisation stage. It also needs to make the liquid more cost effective as the current price tag is prohibitive for large scale deployment.

Dell has an oil based immersion system as well, which is not as dramatic as the engineered liquid immersion tank. Again the server blades are completely immersed in oil. However, this oil has to be pumped into a cooling coil that uses water to cool the heated oil before it’s circulated back to the immersion tank.

It’s also very messy as oil gets everywhere. It drips out and wicks out from any cables that are in contact with it.

That was my reflection from the first day of Dell EMC World 2016. Wonder what they have planned for us next.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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