Pixar Animation Chills Out Its Server Room

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The server-packed render farms at Pixar Animation Studios have created classic animated films including Toy Story, Ratatouille, Wall-E and Up!. But all that rendering can generate some heat. At the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s Data Center Energy Efficiency Summit, Pixar IT engineer Jay Weiland provided an overview of a project in which Pixar used a cold aisle containment system from Polargy to address rising heat loads in one of its render farms. The room contained gear using 335 kilowatts of power in a 1,600 square foot space, resulting in density of more than 200 watts per square foot. The containment system solved the room’s hot spot issues, with a payback of less than four months (including a rebate from utility PG&E). “The return was so quick it was ridiculous,” said Weiland. “For us, that was the lowest hanging fruit.” This video runs about 3 minutes, 30 seconds.

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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  1. The Pixar approach works for a couple of reasons. The cold aisle containment keeps the hot and cold air streams separate to avoid any hot spots in the racks, which then allows them to run at warmer temperatures. This increases the capacity of the cooling units, allowing compressors or chillers to run in a more “unloaded” condition, which is more efficient, or allowing some units to be shut off, which reduces the fan motor power requirements. The efficiency gains can be obtained simply by operating the space at the warmer temperatures, but the containment is needed to maintain the servers’ reliability and availability. Check out this white paper (http://tiny.cc/pXn0I) for a more detailed explanation.