If you asked anyone who works in a data center to describe what it’s like, they might say, “it’s pretty noisy, cold, and windy… it’s best if you go in wearing a fleece and ear plugs.” This is a result of the enormous amount of airflow that IT equipment draw through their chassis to cool hot, power-consuming electronic components. This consumed airflow must be matched or exceeded by that supplied to the IT inlets by cooling equipment. In fact, the proper distribution of airflow around IT equipment is the primary cooling challenge in data centers – even when the total cooling capacity (e.g., measured in kW) far exceeds the IT heat load.
Only by employing Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) software can a data center designer predict complex airflow patterns before the data center is built or modified. And this is necessary if you expect to cool your IT equipment as energy efficiently as possible. For over 15 years Schneider Electric has been developing and using its own CFD technology to support sales of our cooling hardware and software products. We just recently released a dramatically more capable, cloud-based CFD tool called, EcoStruxure™ IT Advisor CFD. And for the first time, we are offering our CFD technology for sale to the general public via the Schneider Electric Exchange portal.
Calculations run on high-end, cloud GPU hardware
EcoStruxure™ IT Advisor CFD is 100% browser based and all CFD calculations run on high-end, parallelized GPU hardware in the cloud. While traditional CFD simulations often take many hours (or even days) of computing time, most EcoStruxure IT Advisor CFD simulations run in less than a minute. And, because we built our data center hardware and modeling knowledge into the tool, anyone with a basic familiarity with data centers can quickly and accurately validate cooling performance of any data center layout or cooling architecture.
CFD analysis software for data centers enables a designer or operator to predict thermal performance at the room, row, or rack level of the data center. Our tool enables you to easily build a 3D model of your data center to simulate and visualize airflow patterns and temperatures. IT Advisor CFD does this by quickly and accurately solving the conservation of mass, momentum, and energy (i.e., Navier-Stokes) equations necessary to predict airflow patterns, ambient temperatures, and related parameters throughout the data center including within its air plenums. The software includes pre-built models for all common data center equipment as well as building blocks with which custom equipment may be created.
Deliver high-quality, accurate results
These intelligent models “comprehend” complex data center physics such as airflow leakage through racks, complexities of airflow through perforated tiles, flow resistance due to stanchions in the raised-floor plenum, etc. Modeling decisions follow industry best-practices including ASHRAE Research Project RP-1675, Guidelines for CFD Modeling of Data Centers, and research summarized by dozens of published technical papers and patents. IT Advisor CFD’s cloud-based architecture combined with Schneider Electric’s decades of data center modeling experience is fundamentally what makes this CFD analysis software tool incredibly fast and easy to use for almost anyone. The software design, in effect, ensures that novices and mechanical design experts get the same high-quality, accurate results.
Not only is it quick and easy to have results calculated, IT Advisor CFD also makes it easy to interpret those results through simple visualization tools included in the software (see inset graphic). Internal-rack airflow details and Capture Indices (which quantify the effectiveness of the cooling architecture in delivering cool air to the rack inlet and scavenging warm air from the rack exhaust) are shown for each rack. IT Advisor CFD’s unique “Cooling Check” function assesses cooling performance (with a graphical indication on the top of each rack) based on maximum IT Rack inlet temperature and rack airflow patterns. Cooling Check allows you to find hotspots and diagnose airflow-distribution issues in seconds. Also, temperature, pressure, speed, and velocity vectors can be displayed over any 2D slice. And you can probe to see values of any variable at any point in the room. Raised-floor and dropped-ceiling tiles can be colored by airflow rate.
Troubleshoot in the operations phase of the data center with IT Advisor CFD
IT Advisor CFD is more than just a design tool. While it will ensure and validate there is sufficient cooling resources in the design phase, it can also be used in the operations phase of the data center to troubleshoot hot spots in existing facilities and perform what-if analysis to understand the impact of cooling unit failures, alternative cooling architectures, or employing various containment options. It is a highly versatile tool that has never been so easy to use. If you’d like to talk to our CFD experts at Schneider Electric, drop them a note at CFD_support@se.com .
The cloud-based CFD tool can be deployed as a standalone offer or together with EcoStruxure IT Advisor, Schneider Electric’s planning and modeling DCIM software solution. It provides operational insights into your infrastructure to cut energy consumption, reduce capex, and ultimately to lower your risk of experiencing downtime.
 ASHRAE Research Project RP-1675, Guidelines for CFD Modeling of Data Centers. (Expected to be published late 2021.)