Data center cooling is a crucial challenge for IT administrators. As the density of servers in a data center increases, the risk of overheating also rises. If left unaddressed, overheating can lead to performance degradation, server heat stress, and even permanent hardware failure.
To meet today’s high server density needs with minimal costs and downtime, you must implement an effective data center rack cooling strategy. The most commonly used methods are airside economization, direct-to-fan coolers, and hot aisle vented containment solutions.
Each option has pros and cons, but all three provide highly effective rack cooling while reducing operating costs. In this post, we’ll explore the pros and cons for each method to help you make the right choice for you.
What is data center rack cooling?
Rack cooling is managing the temperature and airflow of your server racks by strategically placing cooling devices. These can include built-in cooling units, airside economization devices, direct-to-fan cooling devices, and hot aisle vented containment devices.
Cooling your server racks is critical to managing your data center’s IT load – and reduce the risk of heat stress on your servers and even hardware failure. To effectively battle these risks, you need to implement an effective data center rack cooling strategy. That includes selecting the proper cooling devices for the job, strategically placing them in your server racks, and monitoring their performance to ensure everything stays within safe operating ranges.
Built-in server rack cooling
Consider including built-in server rack cooling if you’re building a new data center. This advanced cooling strategy includes built-in cooling units in the server racks themselves. The cooling units are designed to provide cooling to the motherboard and the hard drives.
Although this is the most advanced cooling strategy, it may not suit every organization. It is most appropriate for large data centers with high cooling requirements. Note that built-in server rack cooling is not a replacement for traditional data center cooling methods. It is a supplement to your existing cooling methods.
Airside economization is a form of rack cooling that uses cold outside air to cool your racks. To do this, a cooling tower directs outside air through a water-filled evaporative cooling tower. The water removes heat from the outside air, which travels into your computer room and your server racks. The cold air is then discharged back outside via a large exhaust fan.
Pros: Airside economization is a cost-effective way to meet high-density cooling requirements. It uses a small amount of water and produces very little heat, resulting in low operating costs. It also has a low risk of water hammer compared to other cooling methods.
Cons: Airside economization does not provide direct server cooling, so it’s not ideal for environments where servers generate a lot of heat. It also uses a significant amount of outside air, which can be a problem in areas with limited airflow. Finally, it may not be permitted in certain jurisdictions due to concerns about the potential for contaminating the outside air.
Direct to Fan Cooling
Direct-to-fan cooling uses a large fan in the front of your racks to blow air directly through the server blades and out the back of the racks. This air is cooled by a dedicated cooling unit in the back of the rack. Direct-to-fan cooling is less common than airside economization, but it is still a viable option for rack cooling.
Pros: Direct-to-fan cooling is a good option if your data center is experiencing low airflow. It also works well in hot and dry climates where airside economization might not be feasible.
Cons: Direct-to-fan cooling does not provide any outside air cooling, which can be problematic in areas with limited airflow. It can also produce a lot of noise from the large fan blowing air through the server blades and the back of the rack.
Hot Aisle Vented Containment
Hot aisle vented containment uses a closed-loop airflow system to direct air from the cold aisle to the warm hall. The air travels through a series of vents in your server racks' floor, ceiling, or sidewalls and then is discharged into the exhaust system. This method creates a positive pressure environment in your server racks to keep cool air inside and heat and contaminants outside.
Pros: Hot aisle vented containment offers a high level of protection against pollutants and dust. It also provides excellent cooling with minimal impact on outside airflow.
Cons: Hot aisle vented containment can be expensive because it requires a dedicated cooling system. It also involves a lot of space to house the containment unit and exhaust fans.
Deciding on the Right Cooling Strategy
When deciding on the right data center rack cooling strategy, it’s essential to consider the current temperatures in your rack, the projected temperature on your shelves, and the cooling requirements of your servers. This will help you identify the best cooling method for your data center’s particular needs. Once you’ve decided on a cooling strategy, you’ll also want to make sure you choose the proper cooling devices for your specific application.
Cooling for SMB’s
Data center cooling can be expensive. A lot of energy is required to run the servers. Then additional energy is required to reduce the heat these systems generate.
For smaller operations, expensive HVAC systems and intricate water-cooling systems designed to control temperatures can cost far more than smaller organizations can afford. But there are some good, cost-effective options for SMB data centers:
- Blanking panels can be used to encourage the easy flow of cold air throughout the server room
- Organized cables can also allow for better airflow – so good cable management systems help too.
Products to Help with Cooling for Data Centers
Working with customers and manufacturers, Gaw Technology has some effective and affordable options to help with heating and cooling issues that data centers deal with every day. Here are just a few of them:
These systems isolate hot and cold air streams to optimize performance and save energy. To meet the GR-63 standard for a variety of routers and manufacturers, including Cisco Systems, Juniper Network and F5, Gaw Technology designed an air plenum baffle system that changes the direction of the airflow.
The Cisco ASR9004 router, with side-to-side cooling means the unit and nearby equipment can overheat. With this air baffle, the direction of the intake air is changed from the front-to-rear instead of side-to-side. The air baffle ensures the equipment operates at an optimal level, maintains the life of the router and reduces the risk of equipment failure.
If you have any questions about this air baffle system or need an solution for a different router, please give us a call. We are happy to help you.
Server Rack Ventilation Fans Can Dissipate Heat
PanelCombines three 115 CFM fans, which together move 345 cubic feet of air per minute. By installing the Triple Fan Panel into your network configuration, you can ensure that the heat produced by your device will be properly and efficiently dissipated, resulting in a cooler environment within your cabinet.
If the space at the top of your server rack feels hot, this server rack fan may be a good option. With 110 VAC power cord and finger guard, the fan mounts inside on the top panel of the server rack cabinet. It helps push cool air towards thatspot while separating from the hot air.
Air Containment Solutions to Move Heat
Another option for tackling heat issues is cold aisle containment. This involves directing air away from hot aisles and onto one or more cold aisles.
Polar Plex strip curtains are an effective, low-cost solution for hot and cold air containment. The strip curtains install quickly, seal well and are a durable way to isolate hot exhaust air from cold supply air in your data center.
Filler or Blanking Panels
To help with cooling, filler panels are used to keep hot and cold air separated in the server rack. They are available in a variety of sizes, from 1U to 6U, and provide a low-cost option to help with cooling. They also give the rack a cleaner, more organized appearance.
These 1U panels are used to fill gaps and conceal empty rack space in a rack or enclosure. They help control proper airflow especially in cold aisle/hot aisle applications. The filler panels can provide added support to the mounting rails and make the rack look neat and organized.
Would you like Gaw Technology to install cable management or other accessories into your semi-custom or custom cabinets? No problem.