Cooling represents one of the biggest power costs in a data center, but if a recent Intel proof-of-concept test holds true, you may be able to drastically lower those costs using just air.

In the test, Intel used what it calls an air economizer to cool servers in a data center using only outside air, and no air conditioning. More remarkably still is that it was able to use outside air as warm as 90 degrees.

By using outside air to cool servers, Intel says, a data center can reap a 67% power savings by using the air economizer 91% of the time. That adds up to an estimated annual savings of approximately $2.87 million in a 10-MW data center.

You can read the full report here.

An air economizer draws in air from the outside, uses that air to cool servers, and then expels the hot air outside. For its tests, Intel modified air conditioning equipment to do that.

The test was a real-life one: Intel tested approximately 900 production servers at a data center in a temperate desert climate with low humidity. The servers were high-performance blade servers and the data center was high density.

Intel set up the servers in two compartments. In one compartment, Intel cooled with an air conditioner. In the other, it used an air economizer. Each compartment had eight racks, and each rack had four blade servers with 14 blades each, so there was a total of 448 blades per compartment. Total power density was more than 200 watts per square foot.

The servers themselves ran "large production batch silicon design workloads," which resulted in high server utilization rates of about 90 percent.

Intel didn't control humidity with the air economizer, and only used a standard household air filter to remove large particles, but allowed fine dust to come in.

The results, as I mentioned at the top of the blog, were impressive. Intel says a data center can gain a 67% power savings by using the air economizer 91% of the time, for an estimated annual savings of approximately $2.87 million in a 10-MW data center.

The bottom line? Right now, you can't go out and buy an air economizer from Intel. So if you're looking for a ready-to-deploy product, you may have to wait. But be sure that one will eventually be on the way.