Virtual reality and non-conductive liquids: data centers get innovative

There's plenty of innovation happening in data centers. Here's a look at products on show at last week's Uptime Institute Symposium.

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I/O Data Centers showed its new IO.OS Immersant management software that lets a facilities manager navigate through a data center in virtual-reality fashion. Using sensor readings from the equipment, staff can "fly" through aisles and in and out of server equipment, checking power and performance metrics along the way.

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Samsung built a pair of mock servers with scoreboards on top to show how its "green" solid state drives burn less power and produce less heat than competing products.

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HP brought brought in a model of its double-wide containerized data center, which joins two 40-foot shipping containers to create an energy-efficient server room that can be shipped more or less anywhere in weeks. It can house up to 44 server racks and use fresh air cooling to give a Power Usage Effectiveness score of 1.05, which is extremely efficient.

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3M had a number of exhibits to show off its versatile Novec fluid. It's non-conductive, which means electronics can be submerged in it without short-circuiting. This is a server module built by the UK company Iceotope, in which a motherboard is submerged in Novec to keep it cool. The University of Leeds is testing the technology and says it can significantly reduce cooling costs.

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A close-up of the motherboard in Iceotpoe's server module, which is filled with 3M's Novec fluid to keep it cool.

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Among its other strange properties, 3M's Novec fluid evaporates quickly and doesn't adhere to things, so when this dollar bill is pulled out it feels completely dry, despite being submerged all day. Novec also absorbs heat, so it's used in sprinkler systems for fire supression.

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Geist's Environet data center management software isn't as flashy as I/O's but it's not too shabby. Products like these show how consumer software from the likes of Google and Apple is influencing the design of formerly staid enterprise software.

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Water is increasingly being used to cool server equipment, and Great Lakes showed this closed-loop enclosure to cool a high-density server rack efficiently. Cold water is pumped in at the bottom, passes through a heat exchanger and cools air that's circulated through the equipment. It can cool a 30kW IT load in "real world conditions," which is a lot of compute power in one rack.

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Raritan showed what it calls the world's smartest PDUs (power distribution units), basically glorified power strips that allow wireless remote monitoring of current, voltage, power, and how much energy a server rack is consuming.

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com