Internet Exchange servers put on ice to cope with heating issues

First 'refrigerated gas coolant' deployment in Australia

Traditional raised floor cooling just isn't enough to cope with the high level of heat generated at the Sydney Internet Business Exchange (IBX), which provides data centre space for more than 180 companies.

Managed by Equinix, the IBX has serious data centre density issues with mammoth heating and power requirements, especially for its next generation computing equipment such as blade servers.

While blade servers are becoming increasingly popular because they take up much less space than traditional servers and pack more computing power, they are incredibly power hungry and generate a lot more heat.

Equinix managing director, Doug Oates, said the additional heat being generated in a relatively small area was creating "heat zones" that impacted the temperature balance of the entire Internet exchange.

"Traditional raised floor cooling alone was insufficient and the temperature imbalance could translate into lower cooling efficiency and higher energy costs," he said.

As a result Equinix implemented the X-Treme Density (XD) cooling system, which is the first deployment of its kind in Australia.

Provided by Emerson Network Power, it is designed to supplement existing Computer Room Air Conditioning (CRAC) systems where additional cooling is required to reject more intense heat loads typically generated by blade servers, SANs and high density computer racks.

Emerson Network Power managing director, David Scott, said blade servers are ideal for applications such as server consolidation and virtualisation but admits they are a lot more power hungry.

"One blade server takes up about one-sixth of a server rack, but draws more power, and generates more heat, than the entire cabinet fully populated with traditional servers," Scott said.

"That's a six-fold increase in heat rejection that needs to take place, and traditional CRAC equipment, however efficient, simply can't cope. With the XD cooling system we can easily cool more than 20 kW per rack."

Equinix director of operations, John Mansfield, said the Liebert XD system was the only solution of its kind available at the time of deployment that used refrigerated gas coolant instead of water to spot-cool high-density data centre equipment.

"We looked at products from other vendors but they used chilled water as the coolant while we wanted a refrigerant-based solution," Mansfield said.

"Running water through a business-critical data centre is risky since the results can be catastrophic for our customers if any part of the system fails."

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