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Robotics IBM IT

IBM Uses Roomba Robots To Plot Data Center Heat 57

judgecorp writes "IBM is using robots based on iRobot Create, a customizable version of the Roomba vacuum cleaner, to measure temperature and humidity in data centers. The robot looks for cold zones (where cold air may be going to waste instead of being directed to the servers) and hotspots (where the air circulation may be breaking down. IBM is putting the robots to commercial use at partners — while EMC is at an early stage on a strikingly similar project."
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IBM Uses Roomba Robots To Plot Data Center Heat

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  • by DickBreath ( 207180 ) on Monday June 03, 2013 @05:20PM (#43899985) Homepage
    Roomba proves that robots can revolutionize domestic cat transportation.

    Now they just need to provide a way for the cat to steer the darned thing and provide a more comfortable surface for the cat to sit on.
  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Monday June 03, 2013 @05:21PM (#43900009)

    I wonder how big a data center has to be before this is cheaper than just putting in a lot of temperature probes.

    • It's probably the integration of the temp probes (and physical nature of temp probes) that gets to be a hassle. I mean, you need a separate probe for each you need some way to daisy chain that data before you end up with a trunk-sized batch of insulated metal wire spaghetti.

      • But having said that, you only get the air temp on the floor. This does you no good w.r.t. 3D air flows where you could have bad heat traps above ground (hot air rises, yo).

        • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

          You can hang probes into racks. I do this already.

          I just can't imagine that the roomba cost is much cheaper than the probes and their monitoring device, until you have a lot of them.

          Pulling lots of cable is easy, already going to be doing that in a datacenter. Monitoring is dead easy, these things are built for that and nagios/$MONITORING_SOFTWARE_YOU_LIKE can alert as needed.

          • Imagine harder (Score:5, Insightful)

            by oGMo ( 379 ) on Monday June 03, 2013 @06:08PM (#43900387)

            Why can't you imagine this? One of these costs $130, off-the-shelf. They have eleven total, all around the world, which is $1430, off-the-shelf. Add in some more for the sensor setup etc ... maybe even double or triple it, if you're feeling generous. I imagine one guy can write a program that takes care of all of these. How much do your rack probes per data center cost? How much to install all of them? How much does the monitoring device cost?

            Then, how long and how many people does it take to test them all regularly after they're installed? And how hard are they to install on an existing data center, vs dropping one of these on the floor, slapping some RFID stickers around, and walking away?

            I imagine this is a trial run and IBM could probably come up with an even cheaper bulk solution if they need to. But it sure sounds like a lot less overall .. just the installation and maintenance probably makes it worth it, even if the price is more (which I doubt).

          • by ph0rk ( 118461 )
            So, I haven't been in an IBM content hosting server room in around 13 years, but I think you far underestimate how large they can be.
          • by jon3k ( 691256 )
            Imagine you had a couple hundred thousand square foot in a large datacenter. Now imagine how many probes you need.
        • Cool! Flying Roombas are coming soon!

        • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

          But having said that, you only get the air temp on the floor. This does you no good w.r.t. 3D air flows where you could have bad heat traps above ground (hot air rises, yo).

          How do you do it right now? I mean, if you only have one probe, it can only probe the location.

          Oh right, you use multiple probes. Guess what? Roomba can have multiple probes as well - like putting them up on a pole and having and getting the temperature vs. height.

          The only real difference is that Roomba can only get current temperature w

          • by swb ( 14022 )

            I think the principal value of fixed probes over these is that you get a picture of the entire data center's heating and cooling environment at once.

            It's a lot easier to forecast the weather if you have N weather stations with simultaneous reporting than one guy driving around taking measurements.

            I would imagine a real-time whole-datacenter heat map could be used along with automatic HVAC management to allow colder sections to warm and cool warmer sections with less overall power than a more manual fixed te

      • You can get i2c digital temperature sensors which lets you put a whole mess on a single bus. But... if you can put 64 of them on an 8' pole and run it around on a Roomba, you can create a 3D temperature map. You can even get all crazy and have 3D grid of sensors on the Roomba and review the impact of air disruption as you move around!

      • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

        Just add a pile of Dallas DS18B20 [] 1-wire sensors.

        But if you want to measure other things too, or want a method which doesn't require much effort to apply then the Roomba way is interesting since you can just set it up in the area you want to monitor in a few minutes, leave it for a week and then come back to a well-swept room with a decent amount of data.

    • You can move the roomba data center to data center though as a fleet. With temperature probes you have to factor in the labor cost as well in installing them and configuring the reporting software.

    • by PRMan ( 959735 )
      But the Roomba's guarantee a wire-free floor and that all the tiles are in place... :)
    • How big? IBM big.
    • But this idea is cooler!

    • I wonder how big a data center has to be before this is cheaper than just putting in a lot of temperature probes.

      I would estimate for any data center larger than zero square feet it would be two orders of magnitude cheaper to put in temperature probes.

    • There are a lot of great answers related to this post, and maybe I can share a bit of first-hand info on this as well--I am one of the folks behind this robotic data center monitoring project, and it is nice to see some of the key challenges and opportunities highlighted in the comments. We use static sensors as well for data centers, and there is trade off among the temporal/spatial density you get with static sensors, the cost of deployment, maintenance and measurement reliability. The robot can give yo
  • by cant_get_a_good_nick ( 172131 ) on Monday June 03, 2013 @05:24PM (#43900043)

    Ahhh, nevermind.. .anyone with a new robot meme? Bite my shiny metal.....

  • you can keep mine, and here are some more so you have them on hand )))

  • Laser Beams!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    In other news, IBM just fired 1000 janitors. When asked why, they stated "there was just no roomba for them."

  • I see the computer sitting on top of the Roomba in the photo is an Acer. What a shame IBM sold all of its consumer compute equipment off to Lenovo.
  • Does IBM not care about trending? If a certain area over the last five to minutes has started getting warmer, it is time to direct air over there. Unfortunately, a roomba can't make it around the whole data center to collect this kind of data every minute or every 30 seconds, so you can't collect trending data.

A bug in the hand is better than one as yet undetected.