"Tourists visiting Newcastle upon Tyne are more likely to pack a warm wool sweater than a beach blanket. In northern England, swimsuit season brings summer rains and chilly temperatures. Yet according to the Palo Alto, CA-based Hewlett-Packard, you won't find a better spot for a data center.
"The cool location is very attractive. We will probably only run the auxiliary cooling devices three days a year," says Ed Kettler, a fellow at Hewlett-Packard (HP).
In February the company opened a facility that pulls sea air through seven-foot intake fans. The first story of the building is used to channel air. "We built a second story for the data center, and put intake fans on the first level," says Kettler. "We basically have a twelve-foot raised floor."
Typical data centers look nothing like this. Most use a three-foot raised floor to circulate cold air. Beneath perforated floor tiles, an air conditioner often runs day and night. Even with air-side economization—a cooling system that brings in outside air—chillers are usually needed to cool the air after intake. Inefficient compressors force the air upwards through tiny holes in the floor tiles.
"Our system is more efficient because it uses fans," says Kettler. If industry standards change, allowing servers to run a degree or two hotter, Kettler says he will never have to run mechanical chillers.
As much as half the energy used by a data center goes towards cooling. While total power use is beginning to drop thanks to equipment efficiency, data centers still consume more energy than all color televisions in the US combined. Sixty-one billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) were consumed in 2006, representing 1.5% of national energy use."
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