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HP Awarded Key Patent for
Smart Cooling of Data Centers

August 2003

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HP has been awarded a key patent on the design for an "intelligent," energy-efficient data center that dynamically allocates cooling resources where and when they're needed most.

"Smart" Cooling technology, developed by a team from HP Labs, measures temperature distribution throughout a data center to dynamically apportion air conditioning through "smart vents" and other variable air-conditioning resources. It configures the cooling system to provide more cooling to racks generating the most heat and less to those generating the least heat.

Savings of 25 Percent

"By applying smart cooling technology to HP Labs' own data centers, we've been able to save more than 25 percent in cooling costs," said John Sontag, the HP Labs research manager who oversees the data centers. HP is now offering a version of this technology to customers as the Static Smart service.

"It's been succesfully used by a number of customers to reach a power density in their data centers they would not have been able to sustain without the use of smart cooling," Sontag said.

Appropriate Allocation of Cooling Resources

In U.S. Patent No. 6,574,104, authors Chandrakant D. Patel, Cullen E. Bash and Abdlmonem Beitelmal state that conventional data-center cooling systems typically operate "at substantially 100 percent of the anticipated heat dissipations from the racks" -- that is, they operate as if each rack is generating a maximum amount of heat even if that's not the case.

"Consequently, conventional cooling systems often incur greater amounts of operating expenses than may be necessary to sufficiently cool the heat-generating components contained in the racks of data centers," the authors say.

By contrast, the HP Labs' smart cooling system allocates compute workloads, opens or closes air-conditioning vents, adjusts the temperature of the cooling fluid or controls the velocity of air distribution in the data center -- all with the goal of reducing data-center energy costs.

Other Cooling Technologies

Smart cooling is among a number of technologies the HP Labs team has develop to address the growing problem of cooling increasingly dense data centers packed with increasingly powerful computers. The HP Labs "cool team" -- Patel, Bash, Beitelmal and Ratnesh Sharma -- have developed a robot that literally rolls around a data center floor looking for hot spots and signaling the system to adjust cooling or move workloads from one system to another.

In addition, the researchers put HP's classic inkjet technology to use for targeted spray cooling of microprocessors. Working with engineers in HP's printing and imaging group and elsewhere in the company, the researchers re-configured the inkjet head to spray tiny droplets of dielectric liquid coolant instead of ink. This makes it possible to cool chips even when temperature and heat flux levels vary across surfaces.

by Jamie Beckett

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» Balance of Power: Dynamic Thermal Management for Internet Data Centers
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