Feeds

IBM's cool zero-emission data centre idea

Not a whiff of CO2 - but still whiffs of hype

Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization

IBM says it is working towards the introduction of technology to enable zero-emission data centres, which will give out not a single whiff of CO2.

The claims were made by Bruno Michel of IBM's Zurich Research Laboratory at LISA '09, the Large Installation System Administration Conference, which happened to be in Zurich.

Michel's presentation was entitled 'Towards Zero-Emission Datacenters through Direct Re-use of Waste Heat' and concentrated on chip stacking and improved water-cooling.

It discussed carbon footprint reduction with cooling efficiency increases and community heating using heat recovered from an operating data centre.

There was the usual global warming introduction and assertions that IT has to move from being part of the problem to being part of the solution. As ever, a sub-text was cost-reduction.

Water-cooling is a better way to transfer heat from data centre kit - from thermal conduction chip modules to racks - than air cooling. IBM is working on packaging its chips in better thermal conduction modules. The presentation included gee-whiz tech stuff, like "Hierarchical Nested Channel (HNC) [which] creates thinner bond lines with higher conductivity materials using low assembly forces... [and] Fluid-shear driven self-assembly."

That's all terrific, but nothing was said about packaging x86 chips inside water-cooled cases with fluid-shear driven self-assembly. Since the bulk of data centre server chips these days are x86 ones, that's a massive hole in IBM's idea of zero-emission data centres.

Michel then began to sound like Scotty on the Starship Enterprise bridge, as he talked of blade-level and rack-level liquid cooling and discussed "Improved phonon coupling at hydrophilic interfaces" and "Phonon tunnelling in superlattice structures". He went on to talk about Slip Flow Induced Pressure Drop Reduction and showed a diagram of a Three-phase Cassi-state.

This went on for some time.

A return to everyday normality was hinted at with a slide entitled "Limits of Traditional Back-Side Heat Removal" but thoughts of cooling-efficient trousers were soon dashed as he went on to discuss an "Interlayer cooled chip stack".

Eventually he came back down to Earth and asserted that high-performance chip-level cooling improves energy efficiency and reduces carbon emission, because you could then cool data centres using external air and dispense with chillers. In fact, you could remove heat so effectively that the data centre could be a heat source for local buildings in cool and cold climates.

Okay, but you still need power to run the data centre kit even if you don't need power to run chillers. How do the IBM researchers propose we get out of that trap?

They are saying that, as a data centre could heat surrounding buildings, they would no longer need heating from gas-fired central heating or other CO2-emitting sources and the net effect would be a zero-emission data centre.

This is a kludge, though. Firstly, it only works in cold climates where buildings need heating. Secondly the data centre still needs power to run and, unless it comes from nuclear or renewable generating sources, it's still indirectly causing CO2 to be emitted, exactly as it does today but to a lower degree. Big Blue is not such a big greeny as it would like us to believe. ®

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Sysadmin Day 2014: Quick, there's still time to get the beers in
He walked over the broken glass, killed the thugs... and er... reconnected the cables*
Amazon Reveals One Weird Trick: A Loss On Almost $20bn In Sales
Investors really hate it: Share price plunge as growth SLOWS in key AWS division
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
SHOCK and AWS: The fall of Amazon's deflationary cloud
Just as Jeff Bezos did to books and CDs, Amazon's rivals are now doing to it
BlackBerry: Toss the server, mate... BES is in the CLOUD now
BlackBerry Enterprise Services takes aim at SMEs - but there's a catch
The triumph of VVOL: Everyone's jumping into bed with VMware
'Bandwagon'? Yes, we're on it and so what, say big dogs
Carbon tax repeal won't see data centre operators cut prices
Rackspace says electricity isn't a major cost, Equinix promises 'no levy'
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.