Saturday, 11 October 2008

Thermal Zone Mapping: 3D Imaging Service for Data Centers

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Hewlett-Packard Co. has introduced a new service called Thermal Zone Mapping, which generates a 3-D image of a data center, its hot spots and airflow. Created by HP Labs, the technology is one of three comprehensive assessment services that HP now offers customers to get control of data center power and cooling. Thermal Zone Mapping - a feature of the most expensive of the three package options - would cost a customer about $100,000, said Brian Brouillette, HP vice president of mission-critical network and educational services.

HP's three data center power and cooling services include the following:

  • Quick assessment: An entry-level evaluation of a data center's cooling profile based on interviews with staff and HP's general observations.
  • Intermediate assessment: A higher-level evaluation that includes a basic evaluation, plus a two-dimensional model of thermal conditions under a raised floor.
  • Comprehensive assessment: An evaluation encompassing the previous two levels, plus Thermal Zone Mapping and recommendations for approval.

Thermal Zone Mapping works by attaching sensors on the front and back of server racks, near the computer room air conditioning (CRAC) units and around the exhaust boards. With the software, HP can also analyze hypothetical configurations to determine where to put mission-critical IT equipment. If you have six CRACs and one fails, for example, the software can determine the impact on a data center's power and cooling activity. Mapping out hot spots in a data center - or in any room, for that matter - is nothing new. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software companies can map data center airflow and temperature; but Thermal Zone Mapping is more than just temperature mapping software, Brouillette said.

Furthering the blade agenda

There is also another side to the story. HP has been energetically promoting blade servers with its "blade everything" mantra. Blades are compact servers that can fit into a chassis like books in a bookshelf. But blade servers have an Achilles' heel: they create a lot of heat in a small envelope, which is a potential cooling nightmare. Thus, HP's thermal assessments may help customers understand how to successfully implement blades, said Healey. "The [thermal assessment] does go hand in hand with the idea of being able to blade everything, as HP claims."

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