That's what Husam Alissa, a doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering, is trying to determine at Binghamton University's state-of-the-art Center for Energy-Smart Electronic Systems (ES2).
In a poster titled "Experimentally Guided Advances of Computational Fluid Dynamics Modeling of Air-Cooled Data Centers in a Raised Floor Setting", which won a contest at a recent meeting of ES2's Industrial Advisory Board, Husam Alissa lays the foundations for a systematic analysis of Binghamton's new data centre, using both empirical research and computer modelling.
"We included some guidelines for the initial characterization of data centre facilities, such as air flow, turbulence, pressure, velocity, momentum and cooling capacity", stated Husam Alissa, who began his work in heat and mass transfer as an undergrad at the Hashemite University in Jordan and a master's student at Jordan University of Science and Technology. "There are certain things data centre modellers seem to oversimplify, and in order to effectively reduce the energy cost, it is important to create accurate models."
At a large data centre, the cost savings could be hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, which is why the solution is so important to ES2, a National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center. Partners in ES2 include Georgia Tech, the University of Texas at Arlington and Villanova University, along with Bloomberg, Comcast, Facebook, Future Facilities, IBM, Intel, NYSERDA and Verizon.
In 2013, U.S. data centres consumed an estimated 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity - enough electricity to power all the households in New York City twice over, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. That figure is projected to reach 140 billion kilowatt-hours by 2020, dumping an electric bill of about $13 billion on American businesses.
During the next two years, Husam Alissa expects to refine his analysis, cycling back and forth between data collection and computational fluid dynamics, validating his models along the way.
"Husam has done a very good job establishing a strong technical base for this research", stated IBM Senior Engineer Ken Schneebeli, who served as a mentor on the poster, along with ES2 director Bahgat Sammakia; Future Facilities' Mark Seymour; IBM's Roger Schmidt; and Villanova's Alfonso Ortega. "This is a subject of critical business importance that has not yet been investigated at the university level or at the industry level, and Husam is establishing a basis to ably assert the accuracy of his modelling and methodologies. He has the patience, confidence and thoroughness to take on a project of this size."