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HP outfits data center with 10,000 sensors

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By eeNews Europe

The 50,000 square-foot facility in Fort Collins, Colo., will house about 10,000 HP x86 and Itanium servers, consolidating work from several prior centers. It is a medium-sized facility, one of six HP uses for its internal applications, some of which are as large as 200,000 square feet.

Besides running some of HP’s internal apps, the facility will be a lab to test out ideas for optimizing future data centers. The lab will pursue a goal of defining a self-contained data center that could someday be run entirely off renewable energy sources, reused water and ambient air.

In pursuit of that goal the Fort Collins building has been outfitted with nearly 10,000 networked sensors. They include 5,150 air temperature sensors, 4,700 electricity sensors, 240 water temperature and flow sensors and eight humidity sensors.

The facility sensors will be linked on a Modbus network to a central database that also has links via Ethernet to sensors built into HP’s existing servers. HP has long shipped servers with a so-called sea of sensors measuring temperature and power consumption of CPUs and memory chips as well as air intake and output. They also include sensors that measure utilization of systems resources during varying workloads.

The sensor database will be linked to analytics software and control systems that will let operators change settings of servers and HVAC systems as needed to support changing workloads and lab experiments.

"All of that information will be available for use in optimization algorithms," said Cullen Bash, a distinguished technologist who runs a 15-person lab on energy efficient data centers at HP Labs. "We need a site like this to show our research scales to the level of a full data center," he said.

One of the novel aspects of the Fort Collins facility is its use of at least 534 floor tiles with airflow openings that can be opened or closed to change the temperature of small areas in the center. "Avoiding hot spots in a data center and save 40 percent of cooling costs," said Doug Oathout, vice president of green IT in HP’s enterprise systems group.

The center will be cooled primarily by ambient air. It will also mainly use recycled water. Ultimately it will also install renewable energy sources to reduce its use of power from the electric grid.

"Ultimately, we want to create a data center that can consume no net energy from the grid through it life," said Bash. "We are looking into use of solar and farm waste and ways to reducing power demand," he said.

"At a Palo Alto site we are solar cells and researching use of both islanded and grid-tied microgrids," he added.

The new lab is jointly run by HP’s enterprise group and HP Labs.

The new data center initially will not be part of HP’s recently announced plans to offer cloud computing services. However, the lab may test out ideas that will be used in those data centers, and it could become a site for cloud services in the future.


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