Intel, Korean Telco Partner to Raise Data Center Temperatures

The two companies are developing technologies that would enable data centers to run hotter, saving millions of dollars in power and cooling costs.

Intel engineers for several years have been saying that data centers can run hotter than normal, which would save enterprises millions of dollars in cooling and power costs.

Organizations traditionally run their data centers at 64 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit to keep the servers that run their businesses from overheating. Keeping the facilities running at such low temperatures requires large cooling systems that put a heavy financial burden on companies and a strain on power grids. Companies are looking at cheaper ways of cooling their data centers, including using fresh outdoor air, but most still rely on expensive cooling units.

However, Intel and other technology vendors believe that data center systems can run at temperatures much higher. Companies that run massive data centers-such as Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft-all are letting the temperatures in their data centers rise. For example, Facebook officials last year said they planned to run a new facility in North Carolina at 80 to 85 degrees, and Intel has been testing new technologies at a data center in New Mexico that runs at an average temperature of 92 degrees.

But several studies have indicated that few enterprises are following those examples, deciding instead to keep their data centers at 70 degrees or lower. Their concerns range from being stuck with a smaller timeframe to respond to power outages to voiding the warranties on their systems.

Now Intel is partnering with a South Korean telecommunications company to run a test center in that country to try out some of the chip maker's technologies that would enable data centers to run as high as 100 degrees.

According to an Aug. 21 report in the Korea Times, Intel and Korean mobile carrier KT will launch a high-temperature ambient test center at a data center south of Seoul, with plans to move the technologies to all 10 of KT's data centers after that. Bringing the technology to the first KT data center will happen by the end of 2013, according to KT officials.

The goal is to run the data centers at an average temperature of 86 degrees, according to the Korea Times article. The two companies expect that for every degree Celsius they raise the average temperature in a data center, they can reduce energy costs by 7 percent. Like most countries, South Korea is seeing an increase in both the number of data centers (26 percent a year) and power consumed by them (45 per year). There are about 100 data centers in the country now, and more than 40 percent of the electricity used by them goes to cooling, according to Korean officials.

There are similar concerns over data center power in the United States, driven initially by the development of more powerful and smaller servers that has led to increasingly compute-dense facilities. More recently has been the rise of companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon-as well as the expanding businesses of established vendors like Apple and Microsoft-which are building massive data centers to power their Web-based businesses.

Intel officials last year said that data centers globally account for $26 billion in electricity costs every year and use 1.5 percent of the power in the world, and that number will double by 2014.

During a press conference, KT officials said the partnership with Intel will have far-reaching effects for their company and other firms.

"The cooperation between KT and Intel is to secure a foundation in building a green-energy data center that can save costs and electricity consumption for the rising numbers of such facilities," said Song Jung-hee, senior executive vice president of KT's service innovation division, according to the Korea Times. "We will secure the know-how in making data centers function in high temperatures, and furthermore, open a consulting business in making such centers for domestic and foreign clients."