Considering DCIM? First Start With AFM.9 min read

by | Nov 13, 2013 | Blog

#DCIM is mentioned on Twitter several times a day. A buzzword flying around the industry, DCIM (Data Center Infrastructure Management) software is meant to give data center operators a holistic view of their data center’s performance. Monitoring and measuring a variety of assets and equipment through the capabilities of DCIM is a good thing, but it’s really only helpful if you know what to do with the information gathered.

Oftentimes, thermal and AFM issues are what drive the DCIM initiative in the first place.The way to ensure that DCIM succeeds is to really understand the thermal dynamics of your computer room prior to implementing DCIM. One potential pitfall of DCIM’s cooling component is that it may not recognize the utilization of the cooling infrastructure. In addition, DCIM not tell you AFM missteps, like the number of misplaced perforated tiles and unsealed cable openings that are releasing bypass airflow. If you’re going to spend the time and money necessary to implement effective DCIM, you’ll want to maximize its capabilities by understanding its limits.

Step 1: Learn your CCF
To get the most out of (expensive) DCIM software, your first priority should be to effectively manage your computer room airflow and thermal dynamics. The first step in determining your true computer room cooling capabilities is to calculate your CCF (Cooling Capacity Factor). To find your CCF, divide total running cooling capacity (kW) by 110% of the IT critical load (kW) (free online calculator here). The resulting number indicates your effective utilization of your rated cooling capacity, and what opportunity you may have for maximizing your facility’s cooling capacity and reducing operating costs.

Step 2: Review the 4 ‘R’s of airflow management
The next step is to review the 4 ‘R’s of airflow management and ensure you’re adequately managing airflow. Start with the raised floor: have you sealed all the cable openings? Are the perforated tiles in the correct locations? Once this is done, move on to the next step: the rack. Have rack openings been sealed to prevent cold intake air from mixing with the hot exhaust air? Be sure to check these detailed areas for leakage. Third, be sure to examine the row. Are there gaps between the cabinets? Are the rows properly lined up? Sealing all holes at the row level will also ensure cold aisles and hot aisles remain as such. The last step is to look at the room level. Can you increase your cooling unit temperature set points or reduce fan speeds? If so, are you measuring hot spots or cold spots? This last step is necessary to realize operating cost and efficiency improvements.

Step 3: Implement DCIM – If It’s the Right Fit
Before rushing right into DCIM, be sure to review its pros and cons against your particular facility’s needs. The negative aspects of DCIM tend to be its cost, time to implement, and level of effort required to manage the information. However, DCIM gets a lot of hype for a reason. It can give facilities insight on temperature data in real-time in many different places including cold aisles, CRAC units, etc. In addition, it can also give power information in a granular way to even allow for the measurement of real-time PUE. By performing steps 1 and 2 first, you can ensure that the environment is setup to be able to maximize the savings and capabilities that a good DCIM system can provide.

To best optimize the cooling in the room, it’s necessary to start with basic tools prior to implementing DCIM. The order of sequence should run:

1. CCF – calculate your current cooling utilization so you can make the most of your current cooling infrastructure.
2. 4Rs – address cooling issues from the ground up, fundamentals first.
3. DCIM – to make the most of the software’s measurements, you want your AFM strategy to be as effective as possible.

Implementing DCIM without first addressing AFM means there is a very good chance that money will be left on the table. Some problems and opportunities for improvement will certainly be missed and left covered up. Gain the most value out of a DCIM solution by understanding the fundamentals of airflow and thermal management first.

Lars Strong

Lars Strong

Senior Engineer


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