Kaylie Gyarmathy

By: Kaylie Gyarmathy on December 18th, 2018

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Everything You Need to Know About Data Center Cooling Technology

Data Center Infrastructure

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The high-density deployments of modern data centers have intensive power demands, but much of that power doesn’t actually go to the servers and computing equipment itself. Instead, it goes to the cooling equipment that prevents those systems from overheating.

Data center cooling is a huge market that’s expected to be worth about $8 billion by 2023. With power densities increasing rapidly, many companies are investing heavily in new cooling technologies to ensure that they’ll be able to harness the computing power of the next generation of processors.

Given the importance of cooling for data centers, it’s worth taking a moment to examine some common terminology used in the field:

  • Calibrated Vectored Cooling (CVC): A form of data center cooling technology designed specifically for high-density servers. It optimizes the airflow path through equipment to allow the cooling system to manage heat more effectively, making it possible to increase the ratio of circuit boards per server chassis and utilize fewer fans.
  • Chilled Water System: A data center cooling system commonly used in mid-to large-sized data centers that uses chilled water to cool air being brought in by air handlers (CRAHs). Water is supplied by a chiller plant located somewhere in the facility.
  • Cold Aisle/Hot Aisle Design: A common form of data center server rack deployment that uses alternating rows of “cold aisles” and “hot aisles.” The cold aisles feature cold air intakes on the front of the racks, while the hot aisles consist of the hot air exhausts on the back of the racks. Hot aisles expel hot air into the air conditioning intakes to be chilled and then vented into the cold aisles. Empty racks are filled by blanking panels to prevent overheating or wasted cold air.
  • Computer Room Air Conditioner (CRAC): One of the most common features of any data center, CRAC units are very similar to conventional air conditioners powered by a compressor that draws air across a refrigerant-filled cooling unit. They are quite inefficient in terms of energy usage, but the equipment itself is relatively inexpensive.
  • Computer Room Air Handler (CRAH): A CRAH unit functions as part of a broader system involving a chilled water plant (or chiller) somewhere in the facility. Chilled water flows through a cooling coil inside the unit, which then uses modulating fans to draw air from outside the facility. Because they function by chilling outside air, CRAH units are much more efficient when used in locations with colder annual temperatures.
  • Critical Cooling Load: Represents the total usable cooling capacity (usually expressed in watts of power) on the data center floor for the purposes of cooling servers.
  • Direct-to-Chip Cooling: A data center cooling method that uses pipes to deliver coolant directly to a cold plate that is incorporated into a motherboard’s processors to disperse heat. Extracted heat is fed into a chilled-water loop and carried away to a facility’s chiller plant.
  • Evaporative Cooling: Manages temperature by using exposing hot air to water, which causes the water to evaporate and draw the heat out of the air. The water can be introduced either in the form of a misting system or a wet material such as a filter or mat. While this system is very energy efficient since it doesn’t use CRAC or CRAH units, it does require a lot of water. Cooling towers are often used to facilitate evaporations and transfer excess heat to the outside atmosphere.
  • Free Cooling: Any data center cooling system that uses the outside atmosphere to introduce cooler air into the servers rather than continually chilling the same air.
  • Immersion System: An innovative new cooling solution that submerges hardware into a bath of non-conductive, non-flammable dielectric fluid.
  • Liquid Cooling: Any cooling technology that uses liquid to evacuate heat from the air. Increasingly, liquid cooling refers to specifically direct cooling solutions that expose server components (such as processors) to liquid to cool them more efficiently.
  • Raised Floor: A frame that lifts the data center floor above the building’s concrete slab floor. The space between the two is used for water-cooling pipes or increased air flow. While power and network cables were once run through this space as well, newer designs and best practices place these cables overhead.

As data center power demands continue to increase, new cooling technologies will be needed to keep facilities operating at peak capacity. By incorporating tried and true methods like cold aisle/hot aisle deployment and the latest innovations like direct-to-chip cooling, data centers can continue to deliver reliable services at high levels of uptime.

 
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About Kaylie Gyarmathy

As the Marketing Manager for vXchnge, Kaylie handles the coordination and logistics of tradeshows and events. She is responsible for social media marketing and brand promotion through various outlets. She enjoys developing new ways and events to capture the attention of the vXchnge audience.

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