June 28, 2007 3:17 PM PDT

Dell to sell advanced cooling systems for servers

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Liquid cooling is all the rage again in servers, and Dell has jumped into the pool.

The Round Rock, Texas-based computer maker has struck a deal with a component and industrial equipment maker to sell advanced cooling systems and services to data center owners.

Financial terms of the deal between Dell and Emerson Network Power were not disclosed. The agreement was announced Thursday.

One type of supplemental cooling technology from Emerson is called the Liebert XD. The XD consists of refrigerant-filled pipes that snake around the server racks in a data center. When the liquid refrigerant is in the pipes near the servers, it absorbs the heat coming off the computers, turns into a gas, and then gets pumped back to a cooling unit. The cooling unit then turns it back into a liquid for another cycle.

The liquid system cuts the cooling power load by about 30 percent to 50 percent as compared with other types of cooling systems, said Fred Stack, vice president of marketing for Emerson, in a presentation in San Francisco. Overall, cooling can consume about half a data center's electricity. By using a more energy efficient cooling method, IT managers can realize cost savings and, in turn, possibly dedicate more of their budget to servers, Stack said.

"The main reason is that we've got the cooling near the (servers)," he said. "We get the cooling coils as close as possible to the computers."

In traditional systems, air conditioners blow chilled air up through the tiles in the floor.

So far, around 6,000 server racks are chilled with the Liebert XD, said Stack.

IBM and Hewlett-Packard have similar liquid cooling systems, but Stack pointed out that both companies are using water rather than a refrigerant. The refrigerant, he asserted, is far better at absorbing heat.

Computer architects have sporadically used liquid systems to cool computers and components for years. Most of these systems, however, have required pumps, which have caused concerns about reliability and energy efficiency. In the past, the tradeoff has generally favored air conditioning.

Many companies have been trying to popularize liquid cooling systems that could fit inside a PC or server. Cooligy, which was acquired by Emerson, has promoted a pump system for a few years, while Nanocoolers has devised a passive liquid cooling system. Others include Boston Microsystems.

Such systems could begin to hit the market in a few years, but customer acceptance could take time.

"You don't want to connect and unconnect a liquid tube" inside a PC, Stack said.

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Liebert Corp., data center, server, Dell, PC

3 comments

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For those of us geeks with our own small server racks...
How loud are we talking. Noise from fans sound like a 747 taking off...
Posted by limefan913 (129 comments )
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You Still Have Heat to Get Rid Of, even more...
This technology may be good for "hot spots" but in itself it is not 100% efficient so you will wind up with more heat to get rid of than passive cooling.
You also have to consider that situation that the more complex your cooling system gets the more likely it is to fail.
It is analogous to using peltier cooling for CPUs and North bridges, when they work they are great, although you still wind up have to get rid of more heat than just the CPU or NB is dissipating since they are nowhere near 100 percent efficient either.
Also if your peltier fails then you have absolutely no heat dissipation at all and either a server shutdown at best or a server meltdown at worst.
This should ONLY be considered for overclocking extremes since it is a costly and high maintenance means of cooling, not to mention the environmental aspects.
Posted by fred dunn (793 comments )
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I know this is old but for one, noise shouldn't be a concern for a real data center, you are not in there to write a book. The XD system is really an amazing design that works and has dominated the scene.

As far as Freds comments, I don't think you really understand how the system works. It's made for hot spots and "Extreme Density" thus the name XD. It removes sensible heat coming from your servers.

Liquid refrigerant is piped to coils that absorb heat into the coils above or next to the racks. The refrigerant is always 4-6*f above dew point there for you will never have condensation from the system however it is still fitted with leak detection to ease your worries.

The system is also very reliable and redundant. In the event of pump failure, a second pump kicks on in seconds to keep refrigerant moving. On the condensing side there is a heat exchanger and four compressors divided into two circuits. They work as a pair, based on load.

The system uses 407C on the condensing side and 134A on the evaporator side. This system isn't a stand alone cooling system either, you must have primary cooling to maintain a constant temperature and control dew point. Without the system wouldn't work.

Also, there is basically zero maintenance on this system since there is no humidifier and it's not used to dehumidify. A few PM's a year, checking amp draws and pressures should keep you ahead of any problems.
Posted by XD-Guru (1 comment )
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