Dell Leads Shift to “Chiller-Less” Data Centers with Fresh Air Technology

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Dell announced today an integrated data center solution that enables customers to confidently operate facilities at higher temperatures and even without chillers. Tested, validated and warranted to operate within the highest current temperature and humidity guidelines issued by ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers), the servers, storage and networking equipment of the Dell Fresh Air cooling solution are capable of short-term, excursion-based operation in temperatures up to 113 F (45 C). This is the highest temperature warrantied in mainstream servers in the industry. By leveraging the thermal and reliability advantages engineered into this portfolio of equipment, customers are able to run data centers even warmer, helping reduce additional maintenance and infrastructure costs, while enabling lower overall energy consumption.

Trends in data center design place an increased emphasis on the efficiency and cost benefits that can be achieved with higher operational temperatures. In addition to ASHRAE’s updated standard, The Institute for Energy, a European guidance body, has issued the “European Union Code of Conduct for Data Centres,” which challenges IT manufacturers to increase their allowable environmental limits and sets a goal of enabling chiller-less facility designs. New data center construction exemplified by companies such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo has demonstrated a shift toward fresh air-cooled data centers that do not rely on chiller technology. However, the standard allowable temperature maximum of 95 F (35 C) for today’s IT equipment limits the locations where they can be used without having to have a backup chiller facility for high temperature excursions.

To meet the needs of a broader range of companies interested in employing more efficient and economical facility designs, Dell has validated a portfolio of servers, storage, networking, and power infrastructure that deliver short-term, excursion-based operation with limited impact on performance across a larger environmental window. In line with the new, more stringent ASHRAE A3 and A4 classifications, Dell systems have been developed for sustained operation at temperature ranges from minus 23 F (5 C) to 113 F (45 C) and allowable humidity from 5 percent to 90 percent. This level of design robustness has been validated by recent tests indicating that the products can tolerate up to 900 hours of 104 F (40 C) operation per year and up to 90 hours at 113 F (45 C)[1].

Deploying Dell servers, storage units or network switches with Fresh Air capability gives customers greater flexibility for the operational temperature in the data center, a best practice that can help increase energy efficiency and decrease operational costs. In some climates, the capital cost to build a chiller plant as part of the data center facility can be eliminated altogether. This can result in more than $100K of operational savings per megawatt (MW) of IT and eliminate capital expenditures of approximately $3M per MW of IT[2]. In addition, IT systems that can tolerate higher temperatures can reduce the risk of IT failures during facility cooling outages1.

“Many organizations, particularly those in the cloud services business, are focused on driving much greater efficiencies in their data center operations. Dell data center technologies with Fresh Air capability allow for aggressive improvements in energy consumption and the resulting operational costs, even in data centers that have already been economized with respect to cooling. The total Fresh Air solution, with thermal, reliability, and system engineering fully validated, is based on advanced engineering and design,” said Forrest Norrod, vice president and general manager, server platforms for Dell.

“With rising energy costs and global concerns over energy consumption and carbon footprint, data centers worldwide are prioritizing reduction in the cost of infrastructure cooling. Dell’s Fresh Air cooling solution combined with servers using Intel Xeon processors running at higher ambient temperatures will provide a breakthrough in efficiency for data centers,” said Jason Waxman, general manager of High Density Computing at Intel.

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[1] “Chiller-less Facilities: They May Be Closer Than You Think,” David Moss, et al., June 2011,
[2] Savings assumes $0.07 per KW/hr and/or $.20 per KW/hr CapEx and OpEx savings per megawatt of IT equipment

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