Not Too Cheap, Not Too Expensive: Power and Cooling Done Just Right

Arthur Cole
Slide Show

Keep Your Cool in the Data Center

The more tightly you pack heat-generating equipment, the more energy you consume trying to cool the air in and around it. An efficient cooling system is a top priority.

Everyone is in favor of more efficient power and cooling in the data center. The question is, how much time and expense are you willing to endure to get it?

Across the industry, solutions to the data center's energy problems inhabit two extremes. There's either an entirely new or massively retrofitted facility containing the latest and greatest technologies and design elements, or there are the best-practice solutions like increasing server room temperature or remembering to turn the lights off at night.

What many CIOs may not know is there is a rising tide of mid-level solutions that can provide increasingly impressive results. Many of these come with a small to moderate upfront cost, but they don't require wholesale rebuilding of systems infrastructure or a complete re-imagination of current facilities and operations.

One example is TrendPoint Systems' EnviroCube, billed as the first data center cooling management appliance. The device attaches to computer room air conditioning and air handling units (CRACs and CRAHs) and provides a host of measurements designed to evaluate cooling efficiency, including air flow, temperature maintenance and power consumption. The company says the twin goals are to increase cooling efficiency while ensuring maximum uptime.

While many enterprises have adopted the hot aisle/cold aisle technique of managed airflow, the fact is that there is still a fair amount of crossover between the two, which diminishes efficiency gains. That's why top-tier organizations are turning to air containment systems from Polargy - literally large plastic and vinyl curtains that allow air handling systems to work more efficiently. Verizon says it has improved efficiency by 7.7 percent by deploying Polargy panels in 12 of its data centers, an annual savings of nearly 19 million kilowatt hours.

And just as data centers themselves are becoming more modular, so too are the power and cooling systems. Schneider Electric rolled out a series of such systems last week at the Uptime Institute Symposium, aiming to provide power and cooling capabilities that are cheaper and easier to install than custom designs, and are more scalable as well. The series consists of the EcoBreeze air-cooling module, the Chilled Water Cooling Module, and a power module built around APC hardware and Square D switchboards.

As many enterprises have found out over the past few years, "energy efficiency" is an elusive goal. Every time a milestone is reached, a new one appears on the horizon. Fortunately, with such a wide range of solutions, gains can be made on a continual basis as hardware refresh cycles dictate. Ultimately, the future will bring data centers that are radically different from the ones we have today. But at least it's comforting to know that changes can be made across varying levels of enterprise architecture, and not all of them are costly or time-consuming.

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