- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 04 May 2017
Data centre cooling
Measurement schemes, such as Energy Efficiency Rating (EER), enable operators to move towards optimal performance. Another driver for efficient operation can be the knock-on benefits to company profitability. Alternatively, as most data centre sites will have a limit of maximum available electrical power, optimisation will allow the operator to maximise the efficiency of a system while maintaining IT functions.
The principles of data centre cooling are straightforward. The main challenges are the implementation of the design and the operation of the data centre cooling and IT equipment. The quality and quantity of cooling are important. It calls for attention to detail and good understanding, co-ordination and management at the micro and macro levels.
Pictured below is an infrared image (warmer temperatures are red, cooler are blue) of two sections of the cold aisle in a data centre. In the foreground, the grilles are arranged in a continuous line across the front of the grilles. In the background, the grilles have been arranged in a chess board arrangement. This shows clearly the effect of the two different arrangements.
The cabinets in the foreground show a uniform distribution of cold air across the front with the hot air being kept at the top where it can be extracted. The cabinets in the background show a non-uniform distribution of cold air.
The hot air is re-circulating and coming out the front of the cabinet at low level, while some of the cold air is by-passing the front of the cabinet and punching through the hot air at high level to cool the ceiling.
This graphically answers the question that if you use a chessboard pattern for the floor grilles, the effectiveness of the cooling is compromised. More generally, uniformity in cooling requires uniformity in air distribution.
The precise approach taken will depend on whether a step-change in performance has been noted, newly-installed equipment is not being cooled as expected, a non-resilient response to a computer room air conditioning (CRAC) unit or chiller unit failure has occurred, or there is a gradual fall in performance. Perhaps the operator wishes to take a proactive approach to performance and efficiency levels.
- Think of warm air as a pollutant
- Don’t cut holes in the floor
- Don’t over- promise or over-demand.
 Validating performance
The performance of a data centre depends on supplying the correct cooling to all the installed equipment. A range of acceptable conditions for the cooling supply will be set for the commissioning tests to keep the equipment running efficiently without interruption. Supply conditions need to be measured to establish if they are correct (particularly temperature and humidity), and validated for all foreseeable eventualities, such as failure modes, at full and part-load operation.
A versatile testing system is needed to validate the large range of layouts of data centres and the different types of installed cabinets used. An independent validation check of the building management system (BMS) and associated control and monitoring strategy allows the operator to go into the operational phase with greater confidence.
 Key temperatures
Maintaining an environment appropriate for the IT equipment, coupled with an uninterruptible power supply within a secure space, are the primary purposes of a data centre. Whether for monitoring for compliance or control purposes, temperature measurements must be appropriate, accurate and averaged. Temperatures can vary widely depending on where readings are taken. This is important to know, as taking temperature readings in the wrong spot can lead down the wrong path, resulting in wasted time and money and potential damage to business-critical equipment.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Air conditioning.
- BSRIA articles.
- Building management system.
- Building services.
- Chiller unit.
- Convergence and big data, The impact on structured cabling.
- Large hyper data centres demand for precision cooling.
- Mechanical ventilation.
- Top 10 tips for efficient data centre management.
- Uninterruptible power supply.
 External references
- BSRIA’s BG 5/2003 Cooling Solutions for IT.
Featured articles and news
The phrase ‘time at large’ describes the situation where there is no date for completion, or it has become invalid.
The Maldives is under threat from climate change. Read this report from BRE on their potential involvement in the region.
MHCLG update states there are still 124 private high-rise buildings with unsafe cladding and no remediation plan.
Starting a new built environment degree? We have a wide range of resources aimed at students.
Former railway chief James Blake says trust and control are key to successful infrastructure projects.
Do you know your Rococo from your De Stijl, your Gothic from your Post-modernist?
May outlines a new funding strategy for housing associations and says the 'stigma' of social housing needs to end.
RIBA launches a consultation on a new Plan of Work for Fire Safety.
This article offers some basic rules to follow when writing your next specification.
The iconic Mackintosh Building will definitely be rebuilt, board chairwoman confirms.
The machinery used to fashion stone has changed dramatically - and so have the products.