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CFD Helps Solve the Heat and Power Problems Raised By Blade Servers
Posted Tue August 30, 2005 @11:08AM
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Application As blade servers, a housing for a number of individual minimally-packaged computer motherboard "blades", become more powerful and businesses pack more and more of them into data centers, cooling the thin devices is becoming more of a challenge. A rack of blade servers can generate as much as 14 kilowatts, nearly the heat given off by two electric ovens.

The simplest solution is to add air conditioning capacity, but this is expensive and can't prevent failures on the inevitable occasions when the air conditioning temporarily fails. While adding air conditioning may be necessary, it also makes sense to evaluate the airflow conditions in the room in order to determine whether or not the existing capacity is being effectively utilized.

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For example, it is quite possible that cold air entering the room might be quickly exiting through the returns without cooling the servers, a process known as short-circuiting.

Computer simulation can help optimize the effectiveness of the air-conditioning system by determining the airflow in the room while also evaluating the impact of potential changes in equipment location, heat dissipation, diffuser configuration, and ventilation system parameters. In short, numerical simulation can be used to develop an airflow configuration that is best suited to the individual needs of any existing or planned facility.

Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) is increasingly being used to determine the flow of air through data centers. A CFD simulation provides fluid velocity, pressure, temperature, and other variables, as appropriate, throughout the solution domain for problems with complex geometries and boundary conditions. As part of the analysis, the user may change the geometry of the system or the boundary conditions, and observe the effect of the changes on fluid flow patterns or distributions of other variables.

The process of simulating airflow in a data center has been greatly simplified by the development of Airpak, CFD software from Fluent Inc., designed specifically for modeling internal building flows. Mouse-driven selection and placement and sizing of predefined objects, such as rooms, people, fans, partitions, vents, openings, sources, resistances, and ducts makes model building fast. Fully automatic unstructured mesh generation makes it possible to model complex geometries with ease.

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