The Trend Towards Overhead Busways and How They Impact Your Airflow Management Strategy8 min read

by | May 13, 2015 | Blog

As we all know, the modern data center has been rapidly changing, bringing with it major trends around everything from advanced infrastructure management to new methods of cooling. Another area experiencing a major change, however commonly less talked about, is computer room layout and management.

Trends in computer room layout and management are creating new ‘best practices’ in how to best manage critical environments. And with it, certainly power distribution and delivery to the cabinet or rack is also evolving. Most relevant is the deployment of overhead busways that provide for visible and neatly managed power distribution. Traditional methods of power distribution employed the use of PDUs with whips or branch circuits distributed under the raised floor to the rack. Moving power distribution out of the underfloor creates new opportunities for those data centers with raised floors to recapture better air distribution as well as enable rigorous management of their power distribution. Data centers without raised floors – well – their power distribution is already overhead.

To better understand this, let’s backtrack a little bit. Traditional deployments are on raised floor computer rooms. Typically, power, cooling, and networks are all delivered via the raised floor plenum. For those taking great care to ensure proper cooling is provided to where it is needed, various “zones” are created for the electrical whips, mechanical piping, fire systems, and network cabling. Over time, most data center underfloor environments are not properly managed and lend themselves to cooling dams, random network cabling paths – all resulting in inefficient or loss of cooling capacity and capability.

In a pre-emptive move, many data centers have opted to move the power distribution from underfloor to overhead. Typically, this is accomplished via busways that are built over the racks. Cabinet PDUs can plug directly into the bus ducts. Busducts are proving to be a better method to neatly manage branch power in the computer room. In those computer rooms that do not utilize a raised floor – they are a basic necessity. In fact, such data centers must rigorously manage the overhead space. After all – all those distribution systems that used to be underfloor are now overhead.

Now, as you can imagine, this trend towards overhead cabling has some airflow management implications, more specifically, to containment. So, adding to the mix, containment solutions can also be deployed as the rack densities increase. Although such a practice enables more efficiency with respect to cooling, it demands some forethought and strict management of communication cabling, power distribution, and cooling system technology. Jurisdictional differences could further complicate such a configuration for the deployment of fire detection and suppression. Further considerations must be given to whether to utilize hot or cold aisle containment. If cold air is to be delivered not from in-row cooling, then, typically, hot aisle containment is the preferred solution. This arrangement demands much preplanning to ensure you can effectively and efficiently ensure power-in and heat out requirements are met. Such planning ensures that the communication and power distribution does not interfere with your cooling solution while utilizing a containment system.

Bottomline: The deployment of busways or busducts to distribute power in your data center makes the power management more simple to manage and maintain. However, incorporation of overhead communication cabling – as well as containment systems – add layers of complexity to the dilemma of providing proper cooling. Still, with some preplanning, these problems can be overcome.

 

Vince Renaud

Vince Renaud

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