IBM Chills Out Server Racks with Heat Exchanger
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
IBM will today announce a heat exchanger that uses water-cooling technology that it hopes will give it an edge over its rivals in selling the hottest server technologies.
The "Cool Blue" eServer Heat Exchanger took three years to develop. It consists of back door for IBM's 42U enterprise server racks that hooks into existing water-based air-conditioning systems--commonly known as computer room air conditioning, or CRAC, and a more appropriate acronym could not be found since data centers are increasingly addicted to air conditioning--to suck heat out of the back of the rack and pump it into the water supply.
Tim Dougherty, director of BladeCenter marketing at IBM, says that the heat exchanger can remove up to 50,000 BTUs of heat out of a rack, which amounts to 55 percent of the heat generated by a full rack of servers. The other 45 percent of the heat still gets dissipated into the data center and must be dealt with by those CRAC units. However, the heat exchanger will allow customers to cope with hot spots in the data center or to more densely pack servers in a rack without creating a hot spot. While server makers often talk up the density of their machines, in many cases--particularly with machines with lots of peripherals and the fastest processors installed--customers can only half-populate their racks in real world settings. So removing half of the heat through a water-based chiller will allow many customers to get the densities they bought into when they acquired their servers. IBM is particularly interested in peddling the chiller with its eServer 1350 rack-mounted clusters.
The Cool Blue chiller costs $4,299, and it only snaps on IBM's racks. It can be used to cool xSeries, pSeries, and iSeries servers. Dougherty says that it is designed to be installed by customers, but if customers want help, installation services will cost from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on the geography and the complexity of the data center.