The fans in IBM's Nehalem-based X-series servers, announced yesterday, are fitted with altimeters - devices that adjust fan speeds according to how high above sea level the machine is sitting.
Traditionally, servers have been provisioned with fans that spin at a fixed speed assuming the highest altitudes, where the atmosphere is the least dense.
These fixed speeds were set because a fan has to work harder (spin faster) to cool a piece of equipment in areas where the density of the air is thinner.
In locations of lower altitude, server fans have tended to run at faster speeds than necessary - which in turn consumes more power than necessary.
"In Sydney for example, we are at sea level, a denser atmosphere," said Peter Hedges, manager of the technology and systems group for IBM Australia. "The fans are moving a greater volume of air which has a greater cooling effect. With the introduction of an altimeter, the fans won't have to spin as fast at these lower altitudes."
The technology appears to have been patented by IBM, but local representatives have been unable to confirm this.
The altimeter-adjusted fans were announced as part of IBM's launch of four energy-efficient servers based on Intel's Xeon 5500 series processor (Nehalem).
Rather than push for GHz gains, Intel's Nehalem series of processors are focused on allowing for increased memory and energy efficiency to meet the needs of today's virtualised data centres.
Hedges said the best of these rack servers offer up to a 100 per cent increase in the amount of virtual workloads the machine can carry, while offering up to 50 per cent reductions in energy use.
"Virtualisation requires constant amounts of memory and requires higher levels of reliability functions to be built into the hardware," he said.
Beyond the processor itself, energy savings are achieved using new IBM power supplies, lower wattage capacitors and new counter-rotating, altimeter-fitted fans within the machines.
IBM released two families of rack-based servers which share a common motherboard, the IBM System x3550 M2 (priced from AUD$4879 - AUD$8799 including tax) and the IBM System x3650 M2 (priced from AUD$5509 - AUD$10109 including tax).
Big Blue also announced a new two-socket blade for its Bladecenter chassis - the IBM BladeCenter HS22 (priced from AUD$3929 - AUD$4979 including tax).
And specifically for ISP and web hosting companies, IBM has released the iDataPlex dx360 M2, a rack-style server which leverages "radical new designs" around cooling and energy requirements.
The new iDataPlex dx360 server sits on a wider, shallower rack, allowing for greater density and therefore lower floor space. It boasts a shorter channel from front to back to cool the rack and IBM claims that with rear-door heat extraction, it can actually remove more than 100 per cent of the heat generated by the rack.
Hedges said the iDataplex series will only suit certain applications, such as service providers, as it does not boast the 'zero single point of failure' that a blade server configuration offers.