Hewlett-Packard has added a new feature to its HP Services business that will help lower temperatures and improve energy-efficiency at customers’ datacentres.

HP introduced Thermal Zone Mapping, a new feature of its HP Services business that calculates how to improve server cooling while keeping electric bills down.

HP Services already analyses datacentres by physically inspecting them, and producing two-dimensional thermal photographs that show hot spots in red and cool spots in blue. It also creates three-dimensional photos that highlight airflow patterns from air conditioning vents and around server racks.

Thermal Zone Mapping goes beyond that with computer modelling, allowing datacentre managers to run scenarios, testing the effect on cooling demand of moving server racks or air conditioning vents to different locations. The mapping identifies "zones of influence" where the air is coldest, for example, said Brian Brouillette, vice president, of HP mission critical, network and education services within HP Services.

The mapping may show that one area is cooler than the rest of the room because it gets air from three air conditioning vents. "Maybe that's where I should be putting my most mission-critical servers. ... because it's got three times redundancy," Brouillette said. "[Planning] is no longer random."

The mapping tool announcement follows another HP service unveiled in November 2006, Dynamic Smart Cooling (DSC). With DSC, small temperature monitors attached to each server rack detect if the temperature is rising because the server is doing more computations and increases the air conditioning aimed at that rack. When the server workload goes down, the air conditioning is dialled back. Wachovia Bank NA is testing a DSC installation at one of its datacentres, HP said.

HP is one of many technology companies touting energy-efficient products, services or corporate commitment to green technology.

A 2006 survey of IT professionals by IDC showed that about one fifth of them cited power and cooling as the number one issue they face in their datacentres, a greater proportion than cited disaster recovery, security, staffing or any other issue.

Datacentres in the US use 59 billion kilowatt hours of electricity per year, costing $4.1 billion and generating 864 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, said Thomas Goepel, program manager for adaptive infrastructure solutions in the HP Technology Solutions Group.

Based on reporting by Robert Mullins, IDG News Service.