Rack Cooling Puts The Chill On High Data Center Energy Costs

Server-rack cooling systems, built specifically for data centers, can increase energy efficiency in the data center and lower energy costs by 20 percent.

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As the global economy continues to struggle, companies must shave costs anywhere they can. When you step into your data center, one obvious cost hits you in the face with a blast of icy cold air.

The blast of cold is from your chillers, and they are incredibly inefficient at their job. Sure, current data center air conditioning units that blow in all corners of the data center get the job done, but the amount of electricity wasted cooling everything really adds up. As energy costs continue to climb, perhaps it's time to think about energy efficiency and find a practical cooling mechanism that targets only what needs to be cold.

There are all kinds of stories on the Internet that talk about amazing ways to cool data centers. There are some off-the-wall ideas such as ocean water cooled DCs, or even relocating data centers to the Arctic Circle in order to take advantage of ambient air. Many are clever, but most are simply not practical. If you really want to get serious about efficient cooling in your data center, look no further than the server rack.

Schneider Electric blog reported that data centers can save up to 20 percent on electricity costs by doing away with room chillers and utilizing "close-coupled" air conditioning systems instead. These rack-cooling systems pinpoint airflow much more efficiently, and because of their affordability, as well as increased server density due to smaller components and virtualization, the market for them is steadily on the rise.

Server-rack cooling systems are built specifically for data centers, blowing cool air directly into server fan intakes. When the air flows out of the racks, an exhaust system is right there to direct the hot air out of the building. But be warned, you must know how your server and networking equipment cooling-systems work. Some equipment takes air in from the front and out the back, while other equipment uses a side-to-side airflow method. Your data center needs to be organized in such a way that the cool air is as close to the server fan intakes as possible.

While it would be neat to use many of the data center cooling techniques that Facebook and Google are known for deploying, most of us don’t have the bankroll. But if you have a need for a replacement HVAC system, a top-of-rack system is likely your best bet to cut down on cooling costs down the road. Not only will you end up saving money and minimizing your carbon footprint, you’ll also finally be able to walk into a data center without having to put on a jacket.

About the Author(s)

Andrew Froehlich, President, West Gate Networks

President, West Gate Networks

As a highly experienced network architect and trusted IT consultant with worldwide contacts, particularly in the United States and Southeast Asia, Andrew Froehlich has nearly two decades of experience and possesses multiple industry certifications in the field of enterprise networking. Froehlich has participated in the design and maintenance of networks for State Farm Insurance, United Airlines, Chicago-area schools and the University of Chicago Medical Center. He is the founder and president of Loveland, Colo.-based West Gate Networks, which specializes in enterprise network architectures and data center build outs. The author of two Cisco certification study guides published by Sybex, he is a regular contributor to multiple enterprise IT related websites and trade journals with insights into rapidly changing developments in the IT industry.

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