May 13, 2015

The heat is on: High-density data center cooling challenges

Ansley Kilgore

Data center cooling is one of the biggest challenges of high-density data center design. The approach to cooling depends on your requirements, and in a high-density data center, this includes the kilowatt (kW) per rack that you intend to support across the facility.

Let’s discuss some data center cooling challenges and considerations for high-density environments.

Stranded capacity – This refers to lack of flexibility in the relationship between space, cooling and power distribution within a data center. In other words, space, power or cooling is available but unusable, due to one of the other items being unavailable. As an example, chillers may have remaining cooling capacity, but the amount of air handlers deployed is not enough to meet the requirements of the IT equipment. Power distribution units (PDUs) may have remaining electrical capacity, but remote power panels (RPPs) are out of breaker positions, caused by underutilized 3-phase circuits as an example. A flexible design is imperative to make sure a data center can support the changing needs of customers and avoid stranded capacity.

Hot aisle containment – As power densities increase above 6kW, hot aisle containment becomes a better option to keep hot and cold air from mixing. Temperature control in high-density environments becomes increasingly important to ensure efficient performance of servers and other IT equipment, and a fully contained hot aisle will offer more tolerable working conditions throughout the data center floor. In the event of a cooling system failure, this approach can also provide a slightly longer window of time before temperatures become intolerable.

Data center zoning – Many data centers are mixed environments designed to accommodate different power densities. Data center zoning refers to the practice of designating certain sections of the data center floor for higher power densities. These sections are designed to offer more power per cabinet and provide the appropriate cooling for the density required. To address this challenge, one method of zoning is to include under floor walls or baffles to maintain the required cooling for that zone within the area of the raised floor that it needs to cool. This technique is complimented with a hot aisle containment to return the warm air to the air handlers that are also providing the cooling.

The challenge with any high-density environment is providing the appropriate temperature and air volume at the inlet of the servers while rejecting the hot air away from the ambient air of the room. If managed properly, this approach will provide effective equipment operation and tolerable conditions for data center and IT technicians.

Learn more in the webinar recording, Critical Design Elements for High Power Density Data Centers.

Explore HorizonIQ
Bare Metal


About Author

Ansley Kilgore

Read More