In the early days of data processing, having a well air-conditioned space with an emergency backup system was the benchmark for data center cooling. No one thought too far beyond that. Today, as server density and the cost of electricity have both increased, the energy-efficient data center has become the new standard to measure against.
Facility engineers, data center architects, designers, managers, and facility owners are finding new ways to improve energy usage within their data centers. These include cooling and humidity control, higher-temperature operations, workload management, and data center design itself.
- Source-of-Heat Cooling
Source-of-heat cooling (also known as close-coupled cooling) moves the cooling technology closer to the heat. Technology research company Gartner Group reports that close-coupled cooling is far more efficient than more traditional cooling strategies. It provides an easy-to-install modular solution that can be reconfigured to meet the needs of new equipment or other data center changes. While this is not a new idea – just think of sitting in front of a fan on a hot day – it has taken a surge in energy costs to become adopted as a mainstream alternative.
- Higher-Temperature Operations
The idea of higher-temperature data centers was first introduced by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) in 2008. Suggested temperatures level off at 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and many server manufacturers have developed technology that can support these higher-temperature data centers. A fairly simple, yet still hard to sell, concept is to configure hot and cold aisles in the data center. ASHRAE guidelines actually allow inlet temperatures up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s a theory that can save tremendous amounts of energy, yet it remains unfathomable to many data center managers who still adhere to the colder-is-better school of thought.
- Humidity Control
Another ASHRAE recommendation from 2008 was for data centers to begin measuring dew point versus relative humidity as a true estimation of actual humidity conditions. This was a radical departure from what had been established as fact. Many data centers continue to measure relative humidity even though dew point is a much more reliable metric for today’s higher-density environment. The basic rule of thumb is that cooling temperatures must remain above the dew point to avoid condensation.
- Evaporative Cooling
This is one of the newest trends in data center cooling. Known as adiabatic cooling, the science of evaporation decreases pressure on equipment. The technique has proven particular effective in warm and dry climates. However, like many of the other advanced energy-efficient solutions to emerge over recent years, evaporative cooling has a slow adoption rate.
- Intelligent Cooling Systems
Self-regulating cooling systems are the pinnacle of data center cooling technology. These sophisticated systems are able to automate source-of-heat cooling, humidity control, and other cooling strategies for optimal temperature control and energy savings. Since the benefits to users would be immediate, it is anticipated that universal data center cooling systems will become the gold standard in the years ahead.
Of course, in addition to new technology options, there are logical low-tech solutions that any data center can employ. One easy step is to block off unused space on the server racks to avoid cooling empty areas. Another simple, and cost-free, action is to better organize data center cabling for optimal airflow. Added savings can also come from upgrading the data center’s uninterrupted power source (UPS) equipment to a more energy-efficient model that uses less electricity and emits lower levels of heat.
William Stevens is a writer who creates informative articles in relation to technology. In this article, he describes energy saving techniques in data centers and aims to encourage further study with an Engineering Degree Online.