Whether or not you are familiar with them, data centers are what keep the internet running. They can be defined best as facilities which maintain all of the computer systems and components of a given network. It should be no surprise that the smooth operation of data centers can require a great deal of preventative care, especially when it comes to the environment. Power is a priority, so redundant and backup sources are frequently installed to keep networks going in the event of an outage or other emergency. This is especially important when dealing with large scale data centers that can use as much electricity as a small town. Redundant data communications connections are another preventative measure often taken should there be an incidence of device or utility failure.
Perhaps the most important level of protection, and certainly the most complex, are the environmental controls. The environmental controls are the set of physical qualities of the air in order to reach optimal performance. In its simplest form, these can apply to fire alarms and methods of fire suppression or simply air conditioning to control the temperature from being too hot. 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.
Peak performance is the main goal involved with other environmental concerns. Air flow management, for instance, is important to improve cooling efficiency of the center’s computers through the recirculation of hot air being released from the equipment in use. Temperatures recommended for data centers and similar facilities range from 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. Overcooling, alternatively, can lessen performance when used in areas of high humidity because it can lead to moisture and consequentially salt deposits to build up in the circuitry.
Temperature control can be accomplished in several ways, ranging from simply treating the hot air flow with cooling units—refrigeration which can be expensive, to more advanced methods of separating the hot air from the cold air like hot/cold aisle containment. Containment of hot and cold aisles is designed to minimize the warming effect that can come from exhaust air into the server room. The methods typically used in hot and cold aisle containment are ducting to channel the hot exhaust air from the device cabinets and the application of cool air ushered in to the server rooms from coolers. The cabinets, in this design, are arranged in pairs that are facing each other so that the cool air can easily reach the air intakes (cold aisle containment) and the warm air is led away (hot aisle containment) so the two will never mix. Sometimes blanking panels, PVC curtains or hard panel boards are used in place of or in addition to ducting to achieve hot containment.
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.
And so the internet continues on, there at our convenience thanks to the data centers around the world that keep operating efficiently because of the controls mentioned here.
Impact of Hot and Cold Aisle Containment on Data Center Temperature and Efficiency – White Papers