Switchboard Box Cooling Improvements

Advances in Data Center Cooling Technology – Thinking Outside the Switchboard Box

The ever rising cost of energy coupled with the negative environmental effect of consuming high amounts of electrical power generated from non-renewable sources, has caused the Information Technology (IT) industry to readily rethink its energy consumption. One component of IT operations which has consequently become problematic for the sector is data centers with a switchboard box.

Data centers generally accommodate the majority of a businesses’ computing equipment, including switchboard equipment and as such, are extremely power hungry consuming up to 50 times more energy than an equally sized office structure. One of the main components of data centers blamed for soaring energy utilization is the cooling system, which is said to sequester as much as 70 percent of an installations’ electrical energy.

Everything from the Switchboard to the panelboards

Regrettably, cooling systems are an essential part of all data centers, due to the fact that most of the computing components housed in such facilities, are sensitive to both high temperatures and fine particulate matter such as dust. Companies are however, turning away from conventional overhead air-conditioning units when possible, opting for more advanced energy efficient options. Some of the alternatives trialed by companies thus far include: ‘free cooling’, liquid cooling, under floor air-distribution systems and high efficiency cooling towers.

These cooling options have to date reported great success in many regions however, some companies are not content to follow the crowd, and have therefore begun working on new divergent and creative ways of efficiently cooling their data centers. One of these companies is “Sun Microsystems”, which in 2006 released a mobile data center known during production as “Project Blackbox”.

The prototype data center designed by Sun Microsystems is interesting for numerous reasons: the first reason being that it is basically a shipping container comprising up to 294 servers and a switchboard; the second, that it is said to cost as little as one percent of what a traditional center costs to get up and running: and lastly because it can be cooled via water with a temperature of up to 55 degrees, which is pumped in through an external socket. This basically means that in the right environmental conditions, these centers can be loaded on a truck, parked beside a river and cooled via water pumped directly from a natural water source, hence eliminating energy inefficient cooling methods.

Switchboard at Sea?

Not to be outdone other companies, such as the mysterious “International Data Security”, have proposed taking the idea of portable data centers cooled via water at natural temperatures, to a whole new level. International Data Security is actually said to be buying up 50 used ships worldwide, fitting them with data centers and docking them at various ports. The idea is that these ‘floating data centers’ will be directly cooled by sea water, making the centers 30 percent more energy efficient.

There is currently however, a lot of criticism regarding these seemingly outlandish plans, with numerous experts questioning the efficiency, and in some cases the sanity of such moves. It is believed nevertheless, that such drastic measures may in fact be the future of data centers, as installations as they exist contemporarily, are far from efficient or environmentally sustainable.