Data Center Efficiency Gains with Optimized Airflow Solutions

Computer Server Room

Cooling Techniques and New Approaches to Efficiency

There are new and emerging options around CRAC designs, condensers, fluid coolers, advanced system controls, containment solutions, various cooling systems like chilled water or direct expansion, and even process cooling equipment that’s engineered for the precision cooling of non-server or data-related spaces. Basically, designs and architecture around AFM and cooling have really come a long way.

In the past, AFM solutions may have been a ‘nice-to-have’ or even a luxury of sorts for some data centers to implement. Now, for many market reasons (data center energy usage, growing business needs, focus on green solutions), it is becoming much more of a necessity. When retrofitting or designing a data center, you no longer think twice about adding AFM solutions to improve data center efficiency. However, some organizations are still catching up to AFM requirements and best practices.

For some, the challenge is realizing the massive efficiency gains that a good airflow solution can bring.

How to Improve the Efficiency of your Data Center or Computer Room

To better understand the concept – it’s important to see how far data center environmental control systems have come. Focusing specifically on cooling and airflow, you’ll quickly see that – whether you’re deploying an edge data center or a primary colocation – there are some great options to improve management and efficiency.

  • Identifying your data center type. If you’re deploying a cooling or HVAC system into your data center – it’s important to know your exact requirements. For example, custom cleanroom HVAC systems (think labs and medical environments) can be very different than a traditional data center room deployment. Furthermore, optimizations around filtration, exhaust systems, ceiling grid architectures, and very tight temperature controls are key definitions around your data center type and requirements.
  • Calculate and understand your space. It is important to identify the type of space you have; computer room or data center. While they are both mission critical spaces, ASHRAE 90.4 Energy Standard for Data Centers[1] defines a computer room as a room or portions of a building serving an ITE load less than or equal to 10 kW or 20 W/sq. ft. or less of conditioned floor area. A data center is a room or building, or portions thereof, including computer rooms being served by the data center systems, serving a total ITE load greater than 10 kW and 20 W/sq. ft. of conditioned floor area.
  • Advanced climate controls. It’s not just about controlling airflow and temperature. The next-generation data center introduces new ways to optimize the infrastructure for even greater levels of efficiency. Now, we have precision air control, DX and chilled-water air handlers, data center cooling, process cooling, humidification, and even new types of fluid cooling technologies. All of these systems can directly impact how a data center operates and supports your business.
    • If you’re wondering what to use, DX or chilled-water, for example, know that it really all comes down to use-case. Both will have their pros and cons and both will largely depend on your needs. For example, DX Units vary in use between supplemental or emergency building AC, or primary AC at tented events or relief structures. Chiller units cool water for use in other AC systems like chilled water air handlers.
  •  Understanding heavy-duty optimizations. Sometimes your data center is hosting some intense workloads. Whether it’s for big data or a massive cloud infrastructure – there will be cases where powerful types of environmental controls are required. In some cases, it’s critical to work with direct expansion air conditioning systems and industrial air handlers to meet complex demands. There will be cases where your airflow requirements may range from 500 to over 400,000 cfm. It’s in these situations that you should have a HVAC system capable of supporting those needs.
  • Getting the packaged solution. The next-generation data center is a very diverse and distributed model. Think edge computing, cloud, and beyond. For those types of data centers that require a unique way to control their environmental variables – a packaged HVAC system could make a lot of sense. For example, you can utilize a complete floor or ceiling HVAC system with indoor or outdoor condensers — all as one package. Consolidating much of the HVAC equipment into one, integrated packaged equipment center provides a variety of benefits. These systems are all integrated, easier to service, and can be a lot quieter than traditional HVAC solutions.
  • Taking HVAC outdoors. The amazing progression around air and cooling processing has allowed the modern data center to recover new types of resources. New types of outdoor air solution products recycle waste energy from the exhaust air stream and use it to precondition the outdoor air to significantly reduce the heating, cooling and humidification loads required to maintain proper levels of temperature and humidity within occupied spaces. It’s in these cases that you begin to recycle precious resources and optimize your data center.

This blog is an excerpt from the reference guide entitled: Using Environmental Management Solutions to Build Sustainable Data-Centric Spaces.  Download the reference guide to read the the document in its entirety.