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5/3/2006
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HP Tackles Cooling In New BladeSystems

The BladeSystems due this summer will use a new fan design that consumes one-third less power and is about 50% more efficient in airflow than fans in typical 1U servers, HP says.

Hewlett-Packard plans to roll out this summer new cooling capabilities in its blade servers that company executives say will allow more blades to be packed into a rack as well as help reduce power consumption in data centers.

Paul Perez, HP's vice president of storage, networks and infrastructure, industry standard systems, said Wednesday the forthcoming BladeSystems will use a new fan design that consumes one-third less power and is about 50 percent more efficient in airflow than fans in typical 1u servers. The fans also contain a digital controller so that they can be managed through a network.

New systems, which will offer a choice of Intel's new server chip, code-named Dempsey, or AMD's next-generation Opteron, also sport a redesigned chassis that Perez said helps direct airflow through the system to areas that need the most cooling.

The new infrastructure from HP, Palo Alto, is part of a growing industry trend to cut down on power consumption and heat in data centers small and large. HP Labs is also on the cusp of releasing a server that automates cooling management in the data center and is working on adding power and load management to its capabilities.

Sun Microsystems and Advanced Micro Devices also have been hitting on the power-saving message. And, today, Dell, American Power Conversion and WMware, joined the Green Grid Alliance, a group founded last month to help cut energy consumption in corporate data centers.

John Humphreys, enterprise computing research manager at IDC, said the problem of power consumption is hitting businesses on several fronts. As server prices drop, companies can afford to bring more systems in-house. But the power costs to run the servers coupled with increased heat in the data center are causing difficulties with no easy solution. "Fifteen percent to 17 percent of large corporate operating expenses are for power and cooling," he said. "It is a big chunk of what a company spends annually on IT."

Blades, which increase the amount of computing power that can be housed in a data center, have had trouble with heat because of their low profiles. Many integrators are unable to fill up a customer's rack with blades because of those issues. Humphreys said he has even heard of meltdowns when heat was at its worst.

Heat and power issues, in general, are coming up more often with customers, said Chad Williams, manager of public sector business at Matrix Integration, a Jasper, Ind., systems integrator. "It is a topic that is getting bigger every year," he said.

With Blades, in particular, cutting down on heat is the top priority, said William. Matrix sees blades as a variable option for server consolidation so getting as many blades as possible in one rack is crucial.

Williams, who manages several educational clients for Matrix, said the size of the data center may vary from organization to organization but the pain points are similar. One university Williams services manages a data center the size of a football field and Matrix often brings in vendors partners to help consult on layout and heat management. But the bulk of Matrix' clients are managing from 10 to 80 servers. "They still have the same issues," he said. "They want to bring in more servers without increasing space and the room still gets too hot without proper ventilation."

The design for HP's new BladeSystem fan was inspired by the engine of model airplanes, Perez said. In fact, it looks like a miniature jet engine in a traditional metal enclosure. Perez said the propeller-like fans were specifically designed to efficiently push air further into the blade chassis without requiring additional power. The fan has several speeds that can be controlled manually or through an automated management system. At its highest—reserved for high-power servers of the future—the fan blades turn at 166 miles per hour.

The fans can also be configured in an array behind a rack.

HP Labs is also looking at other ways to cut heat and power consumption in the data center, from a water-chilled cabinet that was released earlier this year to a complex system that would monitor power and cooling based on policies set up by the user. HP expects to release the first iteration of its power management server, which it is currently using in its own data centers, at some point this year.

Perez said HP also plans to move its new fan technology into other server products for the midmarket. HP is exploring self-contained blade racks that maximize power and cooling for smaller companies and branch offices that may not be able to afford the expense of an IT staff that would typically manage operations in a large data center. About 40 percent of HP's blade sales go to small- and mid-size companies, an HP spokesman said.

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