Data Centers Rack Up Huge Energy and Water Savings with Inertech Solution Driven by Danfoss

Banks and other financial institutions keep track of all their “cold cash” using data centers filled with racks of computer servers. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of that “cold cash” to prevent those racks from overheating. If the information technology (IT) equipment itself uses 50 kilowatts (kW), for example, then it may require two times as much electricity —or 100 kW — to fully support and cool the IT equipment. But a Connecticut-based company has invented a way to slash data center cooling costs by employing advanced Danfoss variable speed compressor and fan motor technologies.

— Wednesday, October 09, 2013 By Danfoss Solutions Magazine

“With traditional mechanical cooling on an 88-degree day, it may take 300 kW or more to cool 350 kW of IT load,” says David Robinson, senior vice president of strategic development for Inertech, LLC, Danbury, Conn. “But our solution does it with just 7 kW. Plus, our design has proven that by optimizing cooling requirements, customers avoid huge expenses, can save millions of gallons of water, and can massively reduce their carbon footprint. This new approach is a game changer in data center cooling.”

Putting data center cooling on an aisle containment diet

In recent years, the appetite for data and bandwidth has grown insatiably. Internet traffic alone has increased more than 500 percent in the past five years, mainly driven by smartphones and cloud computing, while business traffic grew 21 percent over the same period.

Much of that data flows from data centers employing blade servers, computer circuit boards mounted on racks inside a small, refrigerator-sized enclosure. Over the last five years, the average daily power use of a single rack has increased from as low as 1 kW to about 8 kW — about one-third the amount of electricity used by the average U.S. home in a day.

Computers generate heat; temperatures inside the cabinet can soar. Sustained high temperatures will "fry" electronics, causing downtime and lost data. This is a major concern for data centers that handle financial information and transactions. If a web page takes longer to load because a server is down, it inconveniences a user. However, if financial transactions or healthcare data are lost, the consequences can be severe — and the enterprise could be subject to governmental or agency fines and heightened scrutiny.

Among the four-tier system used to rate data-center redundancy and reliability, financial data centers that are Tier IV, Class A facilities are designed for no more than 48 minutes of downtime a year. To earn that level of reliability, the facility must use backup power for the entire cooling plant.

"Mission critical data centers need to play it safe," says Robinson. "But the vast majority of facilities still use a traditional chiller plant that has multiple points of failure and is unstable under low loads.”

A new model for total system energy savings

Traditional cooling methods typically employ an under-floor air distribution system using fans to push cold air up into the server racks and through the entire room, which wastes a lot of energy and water.

One study shows the cost of electricity to operate a server farm over its four-year life span now exceeds the cost of buying the servers in the first place. Moreover, the water lost from a data center's cooling tower during summer can easily exceed 100 gallons every minute, over 13 million gallons during the three summer months.

"That's why the industry developed the hot aisle/cold aisle containment model," says Robinson. "In this design, the racks are arranged in opposite rows facing each other. Cold air is fed into the rack inlet on the 'cold aisle' side. Hot air is exhausted out the back into the 'hot aisle.' Containment structures channel the cold air directly through the racks instead of circulating randomly around the entire room.”

"Our cooling solution is part of a whole-building, total system approach," continues Robinson. "It employs some type of hot-aisle containment, a close-coupled compact cooling distribution unit that enables one side to take over if another side fails, and an external heat rejection unit. It's integrated with real-time monitoring and data acquisition to ensure optimum performance and minimal maintenance. Compared to traditional systems, our system approach can cut cooling energy consumption by up to 90 percent and water usage by up to 80 percent, depending on the local environment conditions.”

Inertech’s product offering covers new facilities and retrofits for existing facilities. In addition to the operating expense savings, an Inertech solution yields huge capital expense savings over traditional water-cooled chiller plant systems —and slashes costs of the underlying electrical infrastructure system required, infrastructure that typically accounts for over 50 percent of the overall cost of a traditional data center.

Robinson notes that “even in an existing facility where the infrastructure has already been installed, our retrofit solution can take advantage of those prior investments, make them substantially more efficient, and free up power for IT use. It is a real game changer for data center cooling under any scenario."


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