In-Row Cooling: Just a (Hot) Trend? What You Need to Know8 min read

by | Feb 19, 2014 | Blog

You may have asked yourself at some point, “Do I really need to set up in-row cooling?” In some cases, rising cabinet densities and the inability to maintain appropriate IT intake temperatures are driving people to in-row cooling as a solution for their cooling problems. But when are these measures truly necessary? What’s the reality? Is there a lower cost and simpler solution?

As with any capital investment, there are some factors to weigh and consider if and when such an investment is necessary. Below are some points to think through when considering if in-row cooling is the best solution for your server room.

Considerations for In-Row Cooling

The truth is that in-row cooling solutions are expensive and come with both installation and operational challenges with implementation. Some realities of in-row cooling include:

  • They require bringing liquid onto the raised floor and increasing the number of connection points
  • They take up space that could be used for IT equipment
  • They increase the noise level in the room
  • They increase infrastructure maintenance costs
  • They require a potentially significant capital expenditure
  • They require significant work activity on the raised floor increasing the risk of down-time

Now, we’re not just ‘hating’ on in-row cooling. It’s actually an elegant design that can put the source of cooling close to the IT load, reducing the required fan horsepower which offers some efficiency benefits. And in some cases, architectural limitations and cabinet density may require in-row cooling as solution. However, from a cooling capacity consideration, in-row cooling is often not necessary. If you would be adding an in-row cooling to a space that already has cooling infrastructure installed, it’s essential to determine if additional capacity is actually necessary. In many cases improving the utilization of existing cooling infrastructure can meet the business needs for years to come.

Taking a Step Back

Upsite’s study of 45 sites globally revealed that the average site has a Cooling Capacity Factor (CCF)* of 3.9. This means the problem isn’t cooling capacity, but rather the distribution of the cold air being produced. Many sites that have gone the way of in-row cooling could have deferred or avoided the capital costs (and headaches) altogether by simply improving the airflow management (AFM) of their existing infrastructure. Calculating the CCF of the computer rooms is the first step in determining if additional capacity is required. Once room for improving the utilization of existing cooling infrastructure has been identified, following what’s known as the 4Rs protocol will assure all prerequisites have been met before moving on to more advanced cooling solutions.

The 4Rs are:

  1. Raised Floor – management of raised floor open area
  2. Rack – Seal open spaces within IT equipment racks
  3. Row – seal all spaces between and under IT-equipment racks
  4. Room – adjust the number, fan speed, and or set points of cooling units to maximize capacity and efficiency

*CCF is the ratio of total running manufacturer’s rated cooling capacity to 110% of the critical load. Ten percent is added to the critical load to estimate the additional heat load of lights, people, etc.

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