Cooling with the data center has become our achilles heal in many cases. Historically the folks in IT had relatively nothing to do with heat or cooling management, this was strictly under the purview of the facilities team (after all, if it wasn’t IT gear, it didn’t count). In todays world though the IT team has to get involved, since they are the ones that need to live with (and fix) the problem.
Well the good news is that in most older data centers (older being 10+ years), there are plenty of low hanging fruit to choose from when deciding what project to undertake in order to develop a more efficient cooling environment within the data center.
In this series of posts I’ll posit 10 of the easy steps you can take to solve, or mitigate the cooling issue at your site.
The primary force for cooling in data centers is air, and the control of airflow can be a simple method of increasing cooling efficiencies with minimal expense. In many cases when equipment is installed in racks and the rack has open space, server administrators fail to install blanking panels (or defer it until they have time – which often never happens). By not installing these panels hot air from one server easily moves up the rack, contaminating (heating up) equipment above it. These panels are design to control this flow and should be used whenever possible.
A second and more basic method of improving airflow is the remove any blockages from under the floor itself. The accumulation of power and data cables over the years, especially in older data centers, is often when of the biggest impediments of good airflow, and can restrict efficient cooling by as much as 30%. The issue is often that due to the multiple layers of cables under the floor, pulling them out can be a risky issue for data centers that are running production workloads, as mislabeled cables may get pulled which then disrupt active systems. These projects are often best managed as weekend/holiday endeavors, often after a significant amount of planning.
Additionally there are air flow systems available for redirecting air flow under floors via fans and sensors. Example vendors; Tate Floors, Triad, Legrand.
The issue with hot racks is that hot air generated within the rack can leak out into the floor space and be reintroduced into another rack, thus aggravating that racks cooling process. A simple solution developed over the past few years is to create a chimney above the rack that redirects the hot air directly upwards towards the plenum for removal from the data center. These chimneys have been built by Facilities teams, or can be acquired by specialty vendors, and while not the most attractive device in the data center, they do what’s necessary to improve cooling efficiency at a very low cost. Typical vendors; Chatsworth, HP, Great Lakes)
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