What is the Future of Data Center Airflow Management?9 min read
Data center airflow management has come quite a long way in the past 10 years. From grommets to containment, the story is continually evolving. With best practices on how to properly manage “The 4 Rs” constantly changing, it’s hard enough just to keep up with the present. This got us thinking: what will happen next in data center airflow management? If we look out a few years, what foreseeable trends will emerge? We decided to ask some of the most well known and respected names in the industry to give their best answer to the following question, “What is the future of data center airflow management?”. Here is what they said:
“As the data center industry continues to mature, airflow management will become more active, and cooling infrastructure will become more closely coupled with the IT-equipment it serves.
We are already seeing these concepts explored, temperature and static pressure measurements are being used to control cooling infrastructure. Perforated tiles and grates with fans or dampers are being controlled by temperature and static pressure monitoring at the rack and row level. Also VFD cooling unit fans are being controlled at the room level by static pressure gauges in the raised floor. As these technologies mature we will see them coupled with cloud and virtual computing to the point where the servers are controlling the cooling infrastructure.
While newly constructed and large existing data centers will be early adopters of these advanced technologies, the bulk of existing data centers will for many years continue to rely on technology available today.
There is often a downside to forward thinking and efforts to implement the latest technologies, that the best practices of today are over looked. This is certainly true with computer room cooling and airflow management. Data from many industry leading organizations reveal that most sites have not fully implemented the fundamentals of airflow management technology available today, and are leaving a lot of money and capacity on the table. So while forward thinking is necessary to drive improvement, it is also prudent to make sure that all of today’s best practices are implemented.”
Senior Engineer, Upsite Technologies
“The concept of data center airflow management has gained solid traction in the industry. More importantly, however, we are seeing more data centers actually put these concepts into practice. I think we have got to where we are today, to a large degree, through the educational efforts of organizations like The Green Grid, Uptime Institute, and ASHRAE TC9.9, as well as vendors such as Upsite Technologies and Chatsworth Products. The pace of adopting best practices in airflow management will increase and I suspect the bar on defining best practices will be raised as well. This intensity will be driven by several factors. As we see a trend of data center consolidation, we will see a higher percentage of data center space managed by specialized experts who understand the economic value of effective airflow management as well as how to execute it. In addition, we can expect a legislative impetus as more states and municipalities adopt the requirements of the latest ASHRAE 90.1. For example, California has been an early adopter and their Title 24 Energy Code now mandates airflow containment barriers in data centers. Finally, The Green Grid is developing tools to translate airflow management improvements into energy use savings. As it becomes easier for data center managers to demonstrate positive ROI, I suspect that will stimulate more activity in both new designs as well as upgrading existing critical facilities.”
Independent Critical Facilities Consultant
(CPI Global Technology Manager- retired)
“Airflow Management will always play a vital role in the health of the operating data center environment, independent of trends in the market (i.e. movement to slabs, overhead power and cabling, server virtualization and consolidation). As we’re seeing now, deployment of more dense and powerful servers to replace legacy equipment generates far more heat than the systems they are replacing. This requires even more precise airflow management. The future of airflow management will become increasingly important as the adoption of these high-density racks proliferates, with a particular emphasis on precision cooling.”
President and CEO, Upsite Technologies
As the industry continues to grow and evolve, so will trends and best practices as more options become available to manage airflow. Although this may always be a work in progress, we can be sure that data center airflow management will continue to be the best method to achieve optimal cooling capacity and energy efficiency in data centers.
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