Airflow’s Role in Data Center Cooling Capacity

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Just because temperatures run high in a data center, that doesn’t always mean the facility is out of cooling capacity, says Chris Wade, national technical services program manager, Newmark Grubb Knight Frank. Before you take steps to increase capacity, take a look at airflow. It might be the culprit. Poor airflow management can contribute to overheating and lead you to believe you need to boost capacity when that isn’t the case.

When assessing cooling capacity in a data center, facility managers should know what technology assets — like servers and storage devices — that the data center is housing, cooling units’ capacity, and UPS power capacity, as well as the required level of cooling and UPS redundancy. If you already have enough cooling capacity to handle the cooling load from the equipment in the data center, additional cooling isn’t going to help. The same principle applies to the capacity of the UPS.

If you’re having consistent issues keeping a server cool and have enough redundancy in place, it’s time to take a look at airflow. In many cases, significant losses throughout the center often are caused by poor airflow management.

Airflow issues fall into two categories: recirculated air and bypass air. In the case of recirculated air, warm air comes off the servers and mixes with cold air from the cooling units. The latter, bypass air, is cold air that never reaches the servers.

Sometimes, low-cost steps, such as adding blanking tiles or moving around perforated tiles, offer an easy fix. Other times, however, you might need to invest in a containment measure, such as hot-aisle, cold-aisle, chimney, or in-rack approaches, to address the issue. Such measures help isolate the warm air from the cold air and remove the heat from the facility.

Click here to learn more about taking a closer look at airflow if you are out of data center cooling capacity.

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