From the time the first computer was built in the 1960s, there have been issues with airflow and cooling. So it’s not a big surprise that we are faced with data center airflow management problems today. The biggest issue that seems to be common among most data centers is the efficient management of supply and return airflow within the facility.
It might be surprising that this is even an issue because data centers have been actively trying to find a solution for this problem for years. Although containment systems have proven to be useful, most colocation centers are still apprehensive as they need to regularly get into the racks and make several modifications.
Further, clients with perimeter cooling systems are also having issues with directing the cool air to where it’s most needed. The main reason for this is that they are unable to generate enough pressure under the floor of the facility. Although it is one of the basic aspects of the design, it still proves to be challenging as the solution is to reduce the distance between the air supply and the return air path.
Data Centers are Much Cooler than Required
On the opposite end of the spectrum, data centers have also been found to be much colder than necessary. This in turn is a waste of a lot of energy and is not cost-effective.
Airflow management for data centers is all about finding the right balance. So if the IT equipment won’t get damaged in warmer temperatures, there is really no reason for the extra cooling.
Data centers are also slowly starting to consider how they should deal with humidity. As a result, there have been a lot of centralized dehumidification/humidification practices that have been implemented. Following this approach, there is a benefit to adding a centralized humidification system rather than having a humidifier for every single cooling system. So it comes down to whether you want to maximize redundancy or optimize costs.
During periods of high humidity, a centralized philosophy can successfully deal with periods of high humidity in a cost-effective manner. These economizers can work anywhere in the country, except the Southeast as this region is too humid and warm.
The idea of data center airflow management has only grown in popularity over the past few years.
Today it’s quite common for data centers to follow established airflow management values to improve efficiency. This includes massive data centers, small ones, and even little computer rooms.
But in the future, experts expect these problems to be eliminated via the implementation of direct contact liquid cooling systems. This will enable servers to operate in 104⁰ or 113⁰F heat in a cost-effective manner. For now, we are still seeing the decades-old concept of cold and hot aisle separation where data centers are able to operate at highly mechanically efficient density levels.
What challenges have you experienced developing a cooling strategy for your data center? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments box below.
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