IT equipment consumes power and produces heat in return, which necessitates cooling to avoid equipment damage. For data centers, cooling is crucial. If temperature and humidity increase, condensation can form within IT equipment causing major damage, significant downtime, and and high repair costs. To avoid these potentially disastrous outcomes, data center mangers need to be sure they choose the right data center cooling solutions.

The characteristics of your data center will dictate to some degree the solution that you choose.

  1. Data Center Size. The type of solution that will give you the performance your data center requires depends largely on whether you have a large, medium, or small data center.
  2. Data Center Density. Also consider the power density of the data center. Low density is up to 4kW per rack, medium density is 5kW to 8kW per rack, high density is 8kW to 15kW per rack and extreme density is more than 16kW per rack.

Both data center size and power density impact temperature control and air flow.

Data Center Cooling Solution Options

According to the white paper Choosing Between Room, Row, and Rack-based Cooling for Data Centers from APC by Schneider Electric, there are three types of data center cooling solution approaches to choose from:

  • Room-based systems cool the entire room with air conditioners, and exhaust leaves through hot air returns. Air is not directed or restricted by ducts or vents. Because air supply and return are not contained, performance can be poor, especially in data centers with higher densities.
  • Row-based systems use cooling units associated with specific rows. These can be located in between rows or mounted overhead. Airflows are more predictable than in the room-based approach, and you can adjust for different cooling capacities based on density in different rows.
  • Rack-based cooling uses units dedicated to cool individual racks. This is a good choice for data centers with the highest power densities. An advantage is increased energy efficiency because less fan power is required due to a reduction in the air flow path.

For data centers with a range of power densities, you also have the option of taking a hybrid approach. You can use a combination of cooling solutions that best address different areas of the data center.

Additional Features of the Ideal Data Center Cooling Solution

Once you have determined the optimal approach based on the size and power density of your data center, there are other features that can boost performance and save money:

  • Energy Efficiency. Data centers require a significant amount of energy, and energy costs are rising. Speak with your data center cooling solution provider about options and designs that can save energy dollars. Discuss solutions that take advantage of “free cooling” when external air temperatures are low or recycle hot air for other purposes. Intelligent temperature and humidity controls may also be options to adjust air conditioning based on room-level conditions.
  • Adaptability. New technologies may change data center cooling solution requirements in the future. Even when you know in advance the equipment’s power load, it’s hard to know whether your current solution will be able to handle the new demand. Make sure the solution you choose can be adapted and scaled for data center growth and change.
  • Serviceability and Manageability. Remember to factor into your budget costs for service and management, especially if trained technicians will be required for these tasks.

It will take some research and planning to ensure you have the ideal data center cooling solution, but it will be an investment of time that pays off with a data center free from interruptions, downtime, and costly repairs and replacements due to issues with inadequate cooling.