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Mission critical blade cooling: New Trox company launches CO2 blade cooling system

Trox believes its new blade server cooling system will take the mission critical market by storm. Indeed, so sure is Trox of its system and its ability to deliver the business that it has launched a new company to market the product. Paul Braithwaite talks to Guy Hutchins, sales and marketing director of Trox Advanced IT Cooling Systems.
TROX UK has developed a new data cooling system which it believes will take the market by storm.

Guy Hutchins, sales and marketing director for Trox Advanced IT Cooling Systems, a new company which has been set up to market the system, insists it is set to be a roaring success. Managing director will be David Leatherbarrow.

In comes a unit which offers the computer server market 30kW of cooling for blade servers. These state-of-the-art high capacity servers are used in mission critical facilities such as banks, finance, healthcare and military establishments.

The problem is the heat generated.

The heat load is dependent on the power supply, currently topping-out at around 24kW for a 800mm x 47U cabinet which equates to a 14kW per/m2 for the net cabinet and aisle area.

'Carbon dioxide is the perfect medium as it offers a solution to the many challenges associated with cooling.'

Key properties are:

· electrically benign and non-hazardous to servers or cabling;

· increased cooling capacity (seven times over water);

· reduced viscosity and volume flows, lessens the consumption of pumping power with up to 30% energy saving;

· heat is absorbed during a phase-change process with no rise in temperature.

Trox was approached by Star Refrigeration about two-and-a-half years ago, because of the work it had done in multi-service chilled beams, about using liquid CO2 as an alternative to chilled water in the commercial office cooling market.

But while Trox was interested, the company believed the market was not ready for the wider use of CO2 at that time. However, there was a use for the electrically benign gas in the IT cooling market.

Patents have been in place on the technology since September 2004 and already one system has been installed in Imperial College in London.

'It is a cooling solution in the research facility at the college. It is not a research project,' says Guy. He insists Trox was one of a number of systems evaluated for the work.

Trox has used a variation of the chilled beam technology in the BBC comms room since 1998.

Guy said this was the first time heat absorption, local to the source, was used in a comms cooling system.

But no-one outside the BBC ever wanted to use the at source water cooling system and it was mothballed.

It is a different story now!

Moore's law (he was one of the founders of Intel) states the number of transistors on a processor would double every 18 - 24 months.

That has happened since 1971 'and we have no reason to expect this to level out or drop in the foreseeable future'.

This extra heat is forcing companies to look at new cooling infrastructure.

'This is a risk adverse market. The most important thing is that there is continuity of operation and there is no downtime.'

In the first quarter last year, there were £4.2bn of sales of windows servers, of which 10% were blades. The blade servers in the average full cabinet cost around £250,000.

The system design is based on circulating CO2 at a temperature of 14ºC. The CO2 absorbs the heat across the coil and boils off to a vapour held in suspension in the liquid. The greater the load the greater will be the concentration of vapour within the CO2.

The air is drawn in across the blade servers at about 22ºC and comes off the blades at between 40 - 45ºC into the Trox unit. It is expelled from this at 22ºC.

'We are not providing cooling, we are absorbing heat.'

And even if the door of one cabinet is open for service then the others will take up the slack.

Further, if one fan in a unit should break down then the other four will compensate.

The research process is on-going.

Trox intends to offer 40kW of cooling for blade servers by June this year, Guy explains.

Two systems are offered.

First is for new/existing buildings and can either have an air cooled or a water-cooled R134a chiller with integral CO2 plant.

Second is an upgrade for existing buildings which have sufficient chilled water to meet the cooling demands but the client desires high capacity cabinet cooling without water in the technical space.

The solution introduces an interface between the chilled water (or R134a) with the secondary carbon dioxide circuit, via a plate and shell heat exchanger.

And, providing there is an existing cooling water capacity, Trox is willing to trial the system with clients.

'We are not expecting consultants to take a leap of faith. A trial will show our system is compatible with its data space, compatible with the infrastructure, compatible with cooling infrastructure and compatible with the cabinets and compatible with the IT hardware.'

1 March 2006


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