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How to cool a data centre 07/06/2014

If you’re in the computer or data-handling business, the one thing on your mind is maintaining the efficiency of your servers at the least cost. Computing is particularly hungry for energy, not just for powering the machinery, but also for all the other peripheral needs of the data centre. And one of these great power costs is in cooling. 

As anybody who has sat with a laptop for any period of time knows, computers generate heat; and any data manager will tell you that computers work at their most efficient when they’re sufficiently cooled. A hot computer is an unhappy computer, and if it overheats, it will most likely shut down with all the unpleasant data loss and unwanted down time that might entail. That’s why server rooms come with best quality power converters, and best quality air conditioning – the three go hand-in-hand as one of the great truisms of the industry.

However, power and cost need not be an enormous worry when it comes to cooling a server room. According to Google’s own figures (and we’d expect them to know a thing or two about computer room cooling while they’re busy indexing the sum total of human knowledge), they’ve managed to keep their overhead energy costs down to a mere 11%, thanks to innovative efficiency policies. Other companies aren’t so fortunate, with some studies revealing up to 42% of costs being taken up with cooling.

One option for data users is natural air cooling, where air is drawn in from outside the centre and used without further cooling. Obviously, while this is efficient, it’s of no use if it’s hot outside.

The best alternative is the tried-and-tested Heat recovery HVAC system. Hot air is pumped from the data room, where it passes over a heat exchanger which uses cool air from outside, possibly in conjunction with a refrigeration unit. Cool, moisture-free air can then be reintroduced into the server room.

Of course, each server room is different, and it makes huge financial sense to have a cooling system tailored to its needs. Data centre cooling need not be expensive – it’s all about efficiency.


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