Loading... Please wait...

Microsoft is Designing an Innovative New Server Rack Enclosure

Posted by

For almost every business in operation today, server rack enclosures are an extremely important aspect of their daily functions. These open frame racks, which are used to store computer server equipment, allow businesses to create dense hardware configurations without requiring excessive floor space or shelving. By using custom server rack enclosures, a company can achieve proper functionality while also protecting its IT system and meeting aesthetic goals. But as useful as these implementations already are, a number of projects being undertaken by some of the leading technology companies suggest that this is only the beginning.

Despite the many benefits of server rack enclosures, a major problem with modern IT systems is found in the computers themselves: as computer usage increases with the rise of cloud computing and other innovative approaches, these devices require an equivalent amount of energy to support everyday services. Because of this, a report from Greenpeace shows that data centers around the world, which often run 24 hours a day, contribute as much as 2% of the world's carbon emissions. This is not only damaging to the environment, but also expensive for companies to support. As a result, some of the biggest brands are now trying to go green: Apple, for example, recently announced that it plans to spend $850 million on a California solar farm, which will support almost all of its operations in the state. Likewise, Google currently fuels its headquarters with wind power, and Amazon recently announced it plans to invest in a wind farm as well. However, the most innovative and unusual approach to this problem might be Microsoft's: the company is currently designing a fuel cell they will integrate into their server rack enclosures as a futuristic server power distribution unit.

Partnered with the National Fuel Cell Research Center and a Maryland-based company called Redox Power Systems LLC, Microsoft's planned fuel cell would transform natural gas into a high-quality, consistent stream of electricity. Unlike other fuel cells, which are bulky, extremely hot and expensive, the companies hope to create something smaller, cheaper, and more responsive. The device would also use natural gas instead of hydrogen. If the project is successful, designers have planned out a network of tubes throughout Microsoft's buildings, which would transport natural gas to the data center racks, fueling the data center while cutting out the power companies that currently supply their energy needs.

To accomplish this lofty and unusual goal, Microsoft has hired some of the best minds in the small field of data center energy design; at least one admits that other companies likely think the project is crazy. However, the idea of server rack enclosures acting as a self-generating power source is appealing. While this technology likely won't be successfully implemented, much less widely available, for several more years, it is representative of the high priority this necessary equipment places on innovation. Ask yourself: does your data center need server rack enclosures to organize and improve its functions?

comments powered by Disqus