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December 3, 2014

McKinstry, Sabey offer tool to test data centers

  • Designers can test the efficiency of heating and cooling systems before servers are installed.
  • Sabey Data Centers and McKinstry say they have created a new tool that allows data center owners to see how efficiently heating and cooling systems will work before the servers are installed.

    The device is called the Mobile Commissioning Assistant, and it consists of a heating coil, fan and an adjustable duct mounted on a cart.

    The duct mimics equipment that separates hot air generated by servers from cool air, while the fan replicates the function of hundreds of server fans.

    Inadequate cooling systems can cause equipment to overheat and fail.

    Data centers that are designed to separate the hot and cold areas — a design known as hot/cold aisle containment — save about five to 10 percent in energy costs, according to Energy Star.

    John Sasser, vice president of operations for Sabey, said it is crucial to test cooling systems in hot/cold aisle containment data centers before installing servers.

    “In a data center, you want to prove the system works as designed before you put computers in there because they are much more difficult to fix once in operation,” Sasser said.

    The idea for the Mobile Commissioning Assistant first came up about six years ago, Sasser said. Sabey was working on a data center that would use hot/cold aisle containment. They tested the design by getting a bunch of heaters called load banks to simulate the amount of heat in the data center but not the air flow. The tests went fine, but when the system was operating Sabey found that the fans had to run a lot faster than expected to cool the servers.

    Sabey developed the first version of the Mobile Commissioning Assistant about three years ago, working with the Kent-based mechanical engineering firm Hermanson. The early version did not have a heating source.

    Sabey has been using the current version of the product for about a year for data centers it is building in Quincy.

    McKinstry is selling the device. Sabey and McKinstry say the device quickly pays for itself because of how much it saves compared to other testing methods.

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