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Cloud computing offering big market for cooling solutions, says NS Micro Motor
Ocean Chen, Taipei; Jessie Shen, DIGITIMES [Thursday 2 June 2011]

With the cloud computing market expected to grow rapidly, development of related technologies, infrastructure and software applications is looking promising. Growing adoption of cloud computing is also expected to bring opportunities to related hardware such as servers, network equipment and data storage.

Market research firm Forrester Research forecast in its recent report that the global cloud computing market will reach US$241 billion in 2020 compared to US$40.7 billion in 2010.

With strength primarily in hardware manufacturing, Taiwan is forecast to create a production value of NT$6.26 billion (US$217 million) for its cloud computing supply chain in 2011, up 24% from NT$5.04 billion last year, according to the Market Intelligence Center (MIC), a government-funded IT industry think tank. The production value will grow further to top NT$10 billion in 2013, MIC said.

Digitimes recently had a chance to talk to Leon Wang, senior supervisor of Marketing Center for NS Micro Motor Technology, about how the shift to cloud computing could open growth opportunities for his company. Specializing in the manufacture of computer fans and blowers, NS Micro Motor has expanded its product lineup specifically designed for use in cloud computing hardware. The following is an excerpt of the conversation.

Data center cooling for cloud applications

Computer cooling is required to remove the waste heat produced by components and keep them within safe temperature ranges. Heat sink and fan performance can be improved to deliver a reduction in power consumption and better heat transfer.

It is worth noting that servers, data storage devices and hardware that facilitate the functionality of a cloud computing network require more efficient cooling methods than other conventional hardware. A centrally-located server, for instance, contains a large number of computers and other power-consuming devices which could cause overheating of various components. Therefore, the required performance of cooling fans used in cloud computing infrastructure is usually 10-15% more superior to that in traditional infrastructure hardware.

In addition to enhanced cooling capacity that is being required, a longer lifespan is increasingly demanded for cooling solutions used in data center servers and mainframe hardware. As each computer or server has to operate 24 hours a day to enable broadband networking between user terminals and cloud computing systems, the stability of ICs and electronic components that run mainframe systems is fundamentally important. Energy saving is another focus, which is pretty much dependent on the performance of electric motors. The highest energy conversion efficiency achieved the more energy will be saved.

In short, cooling fans for cloud computing-related devices such as servers and power supplies are required to deliver high levels of reliability, efficiency and performance. To enhance product reliability, NS Micro Motor works to optimize its parts and materials selection and also improve its manufacturing capabilities. As for efficiency and performance, NS Micro Motor has offered products equipped with three-phase electric motors, which achieve higher power conversion efficiency than its previous-generation fans with single-phase motors, and generate the maximum possible torque.

Three-phase fan motors are widely used for CD-ROM and hard drive applications, and are priced 30% higher than single-phase parts. NS Micro Motor is shipping single-package cooling units equipped with three-phase motors, and also uses the solution for applications such as notebooks. Products built with three-phase motors account for 10-15% of company revenues at present.

R&D focus on breakthrough performance, efficiency and reliability

NS Micro Motor now offers three series of fan modules - PA, PS and PE. The PA and PS series cooling fans target power supplies and network equipment, respectively, while PE is used for data storage media, servers and network termination equipment. Among them, the PE series meets the stringent requirements for high performance, robust reliability and excellent energy efficiency thanks to its precise motor design, well-chosen set of components and carefully-monitored production process, making it ideal for cloud computing.

Through virtualization software, NS Micro Motor can optimize product performance with an aim to achieve the purpose of rapid cooling. In order to have the fans well controlled, the company has been making significant efforts to design closed-loop circuits and injecting adequate R&D resources to improve the accuracy of speed control.

In addition, NS Micro Motor has actively trained and encouraged its staff to innovate and become creative, expanding its talent pool. About three years ago the company opened an R&D center in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan, to focus on the design and development of DC axial fans, PC-use motors and notebook fans. Currently about 20 of the company's staff members are stationed at the center. Combining employees at its headquarters and production base in Shenzhen, southern China, the total workforce tops 1,000.

A promising growth engine

NS Micro Motor's targeted cloud computing applications are servers, disk array chassis, power supplies and networking products. Having developed cooling solutions specifically for use in cloud computing infrastructure hardware since 2009, the company believes that its deployment in the sector will bear fruit in 2011. Currently NS Micro Motor is working with a client, which is likely to secure new orders through an open bid sometime in mid-2011. NS Micro Motor expects its shipments to the cloud computing sector to grow substantially later in 2011.

Driven by increased demand for cloud computing, NS Micro Motor projects that sales of its PE series fan modules will account for 20% of company revenues in 2011.

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