Data Center 101:
Data Center Cooling Systems
Data Center Cooling Systems are a critical component of every data center. However, there are a variety of methods to go about cooling your data center and at Data Centre Realty, we believe it is important to be informed of your options.
Heat as a Waste Product
IT equipment uses electricity to function and then emits heat as a byproduct. If not ventilated properly, this heat can become trapped and damage components of the facility. This is why cooling is necessary: to remove heat from the installation.
The difficulty of cooling arises because moving heat requires energy as well as infrastructure, driving up costs of both capital and general operation. Recently, companies are moving towards a method called free cooling in an attempt to lower costs, as it requires less energy and infrastructure.
Data center cooling systems aim to move heat from inside the facility to the outside, lowering the temperature to the ideal range in which equipment can function. There are two main options when it comes to cooling: moving heat using either air or a liquid (usually water or a type of refrigerant).
Air cooling is beneficial because air is easy to harness and does not damage equipment. Additionally, there is some separation between warm air and cold air as warm air rises, and so most air cooling systems will make use of this property. However, this separation is not guaranteed, and inefficiencies arise when cool and warm air mix.
Liquid cooling is often more effective because it provides more targeted cooling. For example, a chilled liquid can be delivered exactly to a server rack, directing the cooling to where it is needed instead of wasting effort in an attempt to cool the entire space. Liquid cooling does have its downsides, as leaks pose a threat to equipment and more infrastructure is required since the liquid must be contained.
Air Cooling Designs
Air cooling systems make use of computer room air conditioners (CRACs) to move heat to the outside. CRACs can be set up to cool a whole room, a single row or a single rack. Whole-room cooling maintains an even temperature throughout the space and has been refined to isolate warm air from cool air to maintain efficiency.
Air cooling designs often use raised floors in which the CRACs supply cool air beneath the room, which is then drawn upward by fans to cool the equipment. Warm air collects at the top of the room and is then recycled back down, with heat being vented outside the facility.
Liquid Cooling Methods
Liquid cooling makes use of chillers to remove heat to the outside environment and then transports liquid to cool the data center. Liquid cooling requires more infrastructure because of the need to contain and transport the liquid, but it can be the ideal choice depending on the situation.
Free Cooling minimizes the use of infrastructure such as running chillers and compressors. This method makes use of air or water from the outside to cool equipment. As allowable temperatures for data centers have increased, free cooling has become more widespread, resulting in lower costs.
Choosing the Right Design
When choosing a data center cooling system, it is important to consider a variety of factors including power density, room size, budget and etc. Generally air cooling with air-side economization is the lower budget option while liquid cooling is best for high-density systems, although it requires a greater investment. At DCR, we will examine your needs and determine the design that is best for you.