What NEC Is Doing for Its Future Servers

Sometimes it is hard to find a good topic to blog about. Sometimes I have too many subjects to write about. That "sometimes” is now. This blog is a continuation of the server presentation sponsored by Japan Data Center Council in October. Among the six server vendors, NEC discussed their research efforts with minimum sales pitches.

As I see the power shortage problem at data centers, we are not solving the root cause but are merely trying to soothe symptoms. I mean cooling. Depending upon which data you refer to, cooling spends 30–60% of the power consumed at a typical data center. If we can save cooling power, total power consumption would go down substantially. And PUE would get closer to 1.0. To this end, I am interested in how far we can push the envelope to widen the scope of temperature and humidity for IT equipment like servers. Bluntly speaking, if servers do not need any cooling (can operate at a high temperature), we do not need to cool them at all.

Minoru Motonaga, Group Manager, Platform Marketing, NEC, gave an interesting presentation on a server series called Express 5800. I do not go into detail; the information is here. Motonaga talked specifically about their Eco Center series.


Minoru Motonaga

He emphasized the design philosophy for their servers. Here I list the highlights of their design philosophy without referring to each product.

1. The adoption of the Atom processor and power supply sharing:

  • Using both reduces power consumption by 70%. Sharing the power supply balances average total power utilization around 50%, which produces the minimum AC-DC conversion loss.
  • Can operate up to 104 °F (40 °C). Intel warrants the correct operation of their chips up to 95 °F (35 °C).

2. Space reduction:

  • Can accommodate up to 240 servers under 6kVA.
  • Accomplished 630kg/square meter with 240 servers.

3. Design know-how:

  • Air-flow control:
  • HDD is very sensitive to higher temperatures. The heat-generating motherboard (CPUs) is placed at the back of the chassis, and HDD is placed in the front of the chassis, closer to cooler inlet air.
  • Cabling kit was developed to prevent cables inside the chassis from disturbing airflow within the chassis.
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Cloud Storage – The Issues and Benefits
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Other server vendors are also adopting the Atom processor. But it seems as if you need to apply many solutions to make your server really energy efficient. Some solutions are based on new and innovative technologies, but others depend upon the know-how accumulated over many years of developing and marketing servers.

I wish they would accomplish higher temperature for their servers so that cooling could be reduced. Japan is hot and humid in summer but can be very dry and cold in winter. I asked Motonaga about humidity in conjunction with airside economizer. He said that condensation is the biggest problem to resolve at this point. But he assured me that NEC was not abandoning the effort to develop a solution for that, either.

A very energy efficient server (a small one with a light footprint) that can operate in a wide range of temperatures and humidity levels will be the server of the future for data centers.

Zen Kishimoto

About Zen Kishimoto

Seasoned research and technology executive with various functional expertise, including roles in analyst, writer, CTO, VP Engineering, general management, sales, and marketing in diverse high-tech and cleantech industry segments, including software, mobile embedded systems, Web technologies, and networking. Current focus and expertise are in the area of the IT application to energy, such as smart grid, green IT, building/data center energy efficiency, and cloud computing.

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