Go to School On How to Keep Your Data Center Cool

This audio was created using Microsoft Azure Speech Services

When building or renovating a data center, choosing the appropriate cooling system is obviously a big decision point, one that has a direct impact on how well your IT systems function as well as how much you pay to power the facility.

With that in mind, Schneider Electric’s Energy University recently came out with a free course called “Fundamentals of Cooling Architecture 1: Heat Removal Methods.” The intent of the course is to educate you on the various cooling architectures, to help you make a more informed decision for your own data center.

In a mere 45 minutes, the course will help you understand the basics behind heat removal, which is one of the most essential yet least understood of all critical IT environmental processes. It’s becoming more of an issue because computing equipment continues to get smaller yet uses the same or even more electricity than the equipment it replaced, meaning it generates more heat in data centers. It takes precision cooling and heat rejection equipment to get this unwanted heat out of the data center before temperatures get too high and bad things begin to happen.

The good news is there is no shortage of options to handle whatever your particular needs may be. In fact, the course identifies 13 heat removal methods and provides pros and cons for each. It uses simple terms and diagrams that make the concepts digestible and understandable.

Eleven of the methods discussed in the course rely on some sort of refrigeration to cool hot data center air and remove it. The other two – direct air and indirect air methods – rely on the outdoor conditions as the primary means of cooling. They are also known as “economizer” or “free cooling” approaches. (Once such architectures were thought to be suitable only for milder climates, but the thinking on that is changing somewhat, as this recent post explains.)

Three elements combine to describe any cooling architecture:
• Heat removal: Some type of heat rejection system provides cooling capacity and transports or pumps the heat from the IT environment to the outdoors.
• Air distribution: Air distribution to IT equipment greatly affects the overall performance of the cooling system.
• Location of the cooling unit: The course details four basic cooling unit locations, including outdoor containerized systems, and explains how location plays a significant role in data center design including overall cooling efficiency, IT power density and rack space utilization.

Most of the cooling systems covered in the course involve some type of liquid to cool hot air – typically water or glycol – and also vary by where they physically reside and how they collect and move the heat away from the data center. The course covers the various components involved, from computer room air handlers (CRAH) and computer room air conditioners (CRAC) to condensers, chillers, cooling towers and air ducts.

In providing a list of pros and cons for each type of heat removal system, the course will put you on the right track to deciding which makes the most sense for your environment. It’s a decision that involves lots of variables, including your uptime requirements, power density, geographic location, the physical size of your IT environment, availability and reliability of existing buildings, and of course the time and money available for system design and installation.

While no 45-minute course can make you an expert in data center cooling, “Fundamentals of Cooling Architecture 1: Heat Removal Methods” will help you work more effectively with cooling professionals to ensure the system you choose meets your IT objectives. You’ll find the course in the College of Data Centers on the Energy University site.

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  • Stacy Kimbell

    11 years ago

    great article

  • This is a timely article that addresses efficiency and reliability challenges as Data Center demands multiple. Schneider also has an AWESOME facility in St Louis to “play” with these solutions in a live Data Center.

  • “Fundamentals of Cooling Architecture” sounds like a great concept. I think it’s great to be gaining an understanding of these fundamentals now as data centers become increasingly important in the future.

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