Impact of Server Thermal Design on the Cooling Efficiency: Chassis Design

[+] Author and Article Information
Sadegh Khalili

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Binghamton University-SUNY, Binghamton, NY, USA

Husam Alissa

Microsoft, Redmond, WA, USA

Kourosh Nemati

Future Facilities Inc., San Jose, CA, USA

Mark Seymour

Future Facilities Ltd., London, UK

Robert Curtis

Dell, Austin, TX, USA

David Moss

Dell, Austin, TX, USA

Bahgat Sammakia

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Binghamton University-SUNY, Binghamton, NY, USA

1Corresponding author.

ASME doi:10.1115/1.4042983 History: Received September 21, 2018; Revised January 29, 2019


There are various designs for segregating hot and cold air in data centers such as cold aisle containment (CAC), hot aisle containment (HAC), and chimney exhaust rack. These containment systems have different characteristics and impose various conditions on the information technology equipment (ITE). One common issue in HAC systems is a pressure build-up inside the HAC (known as backpressure). Backpressure also can be present in CAC systems in case of airflow imbalances. Hot air recirculation, limited cooling airflow rate in servers, and reversed flow through ITE with weaker fan systems (e.g. network switches) are some known consequences of backpressure. Currently, there is a lack of experimental data on the interdependency between overall performance of ITE and its internal design when backpressure is imposed on ITE. In this paper, three commercial 2-rack unit (RU) servers with different internal designs from various generations and performance levels are tested and analyzed under various environmental conditions. Smoke tests and thermal imaging are implemented to study the airflow patterns inside the tested equipment. In addition, the impact of hot air leakage into the servers through chassis perforations on the fan speed and the power consumption of the servers is studied. Furthermore, the cause of the discrepancy between measured inlet temperatures by the intelligent platform management interface (IPMI) and external sensors is investigated. It is found that arrangement of fans, segregation of space upstream and downstream of fans, leakage paths, the location of baseboard management controller (BMC) sensors and presence of backpressure can have a significant impact on ITE power and cooling efficiency.

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