Data Centers: How Cold Aisle Containment Helps To Control the Environment

Known or unknown to most people in the public, data centers play a pivotal part of the internet. They can be defined best as facilities which maintain all of the computer systems and components of a given network. It can take a great deal of preventative measures to keep these venues operating smoothly, mostly when it comes to their environment. Primarily among concerns is power supply and so steps are typically taken to provide backup or redundancy systems to protect against power failures or other emergencies. This is especially important when dealing with large scale data centers that can use as much electricity as a small town. Another area often featuring layers of redundancy is communications, to keep device or connection failure arise.

Environmental controls are the final layer of protection involved and potentially the most complicated. Environmental controls essentially concerns the physical qualities of a specific range to insure performance levels which are optimal. At its most simple, some of these controls include things like fire alarms and suppressants or air conditioners which filter the air and help to cool it. As humidity is another major concern when it comes to peak performance, dehumidifiers are generally employed to keep the amount of humidity to a negligent level.

Cold Aisle Containment Options and Server pic

Other environmental controls are even more concentrated on maintaining a specific level of performance. Air flow management, for example, is used to provide the efficient cooling of the center’s computers through the re-circulation of hot air exhausted from the machines. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recommends for data center operation a temperature between 68–75 °F (20–24 °C), although some studies have suggested that any temperature below 70 °F (21 °C) may waste energy. Overheating of the equipment running in the data center can cause lower levels of performance at best and complete failure of the devices at worst. Alternatively, over-cooling the equipment while operating in an area of high humidity can cause moisture and salt deposits to build up in the circuitry.

Temperature control can be achieved in several forms, from simply cooling the area to employing hot/cold aisle containment, which separates the hot air from the cool air. Containment of hot and cold aisles is intended to keep exhaust air from warming the server room’s temperature. Generally, hot and cold aisle containment is centered on the principle of using ducting or a similar setup to draw warm air out of the device cabinets located in the server room while ushering cool air in. In this format, aisles are constructed with the cabinets, facing one another so the cool air can easily reach the air intakes on the devices (cold containment) and the warm air is led away (hot containment) without the two mixing together. PVC curtains, blanking panels or hard panel boards are sometimes employed to achieve the hot containment, either along with ducting or in place of it.

Another approach is the use of ventilated flooring tiles to build a containment system that controls the air flow directly to the cabinets. The amount of containment needed for each data center is dependent on a number of factors, such as ambient temperature averages, ventilation leakage and server tolerance.

Through the right combination of environmental controls and other protections, the world’s data centers keep running efficiently and keep the internet operating.

Additional Info on Aisle Containment:
http://www.computerweekly.com/feature/How-to-effectively-manage-datacentre-temperature-and-humidity

Implementing Data Center Cooling Best Practices