IBM to Chill Servers With ‘Cool Blue’

IBM has scored a coup in the battle to neutralize the heat that threatens to burn out server computers.

The Armonk, N.Y., company unveiled the eServer Rear Door Heat Exchanger, a piece of hardware for customers whose data centers have reached the limits of cooling capacity, but may still want to add more processing power to their systems.

Nick-named Cool Blue, the hardware uses the water supply for air conditioners located in data centers to cut heat emissions in half. The machine can be used on any server to offer air conditioning units some respite from the taxation of today’s computer servers.

The Heat Exchanger features sealed tubes filled with cold water that remove up to 55 percent of the heat in a rack so it is not released into the data center.

The device can remove up to 50,000 British Thermal Units (BTUs) of heat generated by a full server rack, according to Alex Yost, director of eServer products for IBM.

Yost said IBM created the technology because data center managers were either splitting the servers among racks to avoid so-called hot spots from too much energy, or adding more cooling units.

Both solutions to the heat problem cost more money and take up more space. Cool Blue is designed to alleviate the space burden, plus lower energy costs by as much as 15 percent.

Imagine a rack of servers churning out 90,000 BTUs for 7 cents per kilowatt hour, Yost said. By using Cool Blue, the customer can save in the range of $9,200 a year in power consumption.

Pund-IT analyst Charles King said Cool Blue is an interesting approach to a problem systems vendors ignore.

“Most attention has been focused chip level cooling issues, but how server owners keep their data centers functioning is equally or even more important,” King said. “Datacenters are designed to support specific levels of electrical consumption and HVAC performance, but with servers running hotter and hotter, datacenter cooling capacities are running into trouble.”

King said businesses either face paying for significant HVAC upgrades or running fewer servers than they have floor space for in order to cope with the problem. Cool Blue is a solution for companies to maximize their IT performance without blowing a fuse.

“Also, it’s notable that IBM is willing to risk the ‘water cooling’ third rail,” King said. “I imagine some of the company’s competitors will denigrate Cool Blue, but it seems to me that the offering is aimed at the specific needs/pain points of data center owners who I expect to be thrilled with it.”

HP, Sun Microsystems, Dell and pretty much any maker of machines for high-performance computing work on cooling down the data center.

But Big Blue may be the cooling leader, if there is such a thing: The company already offers features like Calibrated Vectored Cooling, which directs cool air flow through IBM server systems.

Dual-core chips are also a hot item for cooling down computer energy consumption. The chips, manufactured by vendors like Intel, AMD, and IBM, offer twice the performance of a single socket processor while consuming the energy of one chip.

Cool Blue fits on an eServer enterprise rack and allows customers to fill individual racks, freeing floor space without the need to purchase additional air conditioning units.

Cool Blue is available now, starting at $4,299. IBM said the latest eServer Cluster 1350 system will be one of the first machines to support the Heat Exchanger, with prices varying based on cluster configuration.

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