How can the reliability of high-end servers in tough environments be increased?
With power-hungry applications, it is necessary to use a cooling method for server and computer solutions to reduce the heat in the cabinets, racks and housings of computer systems. This is generally accomplished with air conditioners that require regular maintenance.
However, not all applications can be installed in an air conditioned room, nor is using an air conditioner always feasible due to the required maintenance and space. In this case, the easiest way is to cool the sensitive electronic parts with air flow. Due to the fact that fans are not too reliable, the fan solution is built in redundancy.
Now, the immediate problem seems to be solved and the electronics are cooled, but unfortunately this will not last in the long run. The big disadvantage is that with forced air, all the dust from the environment is sucked into the housing. In some environments the air is cleaner than in others, but dust will always be present. In tough environments, the air is generally dirty, causing air flow to cause an undesirable effect. Blown in dust can completely cover the electronics and insulate them, potentially leading the system to cease operation due to current leakage or overheating. One easy precaution is to protect the air inlet with filter mats, however this now means that a generally maintenance-free system now requires preventative maintenance. It can be easy to forget to replace the filter mats which can delay maintenance, not to mention that with a filter you need more powerful fans.
WHAT IS THE ALTERNATIVE?
For solutions with up to 35-40W, the market offers fanless systems. Some of these systems are better and some are less efficient, depending on the initial purchasing cost. However, as soon as you require server class performance, fans are a must and no desirable alternative has
been available so far.
MPL AG Switzerland, one of the first producers of rugged fanless embedded computers, has introduced a fanless compact xeon server class concept without the disadvantages mentioned above, even within environments of between -40°C and 65°C. The server is fully maintenance free and therefore ideal in unmanned remote areas in vibration oriented environments like vehicles or in other dusty environments, without the risk of failures due to overheating.
MPL’s sealed redundant forced air solution does not blow air into the electronics compartment, but still efficiently cools the whole system. In this way, the server electronics are completely sealed against any ingress of dust and without the need of filters. The additional high quality fans are temperature and speed controlled and operate only when needed to increase the lifecycle. This is an ideal solution for when a reliable server class system is needed in tough or dirty application environments.
Remy Lörtscher is the CEO at MPL AG.