What are the most important issues to consider when purchasing data center cooling equipment (either portable or stationary)?
When purchasing data center cooling equipment, you’ll first want to determine what your current needs are, as well as your budget. There are a few different cooling options to consider, if you are either building a data center from the floor up or looking to install a brand new cooling system.
Basic air-cooled systems (ones consisting of a traditional CRAC unit) are very commonly used for small to medium sized IT environments, and are an ideal option to consider for standard density arrangements, as they are rather inexpensive to operate and are easy to maintain, however can be disadvantageous for high density applications.
Free-air cooling systems keep operational costs down by utilizing natural (or outside) air to cool the data center, and are a relatively low-cost solution to implement. However, they are not always feasible, especially if your data center is located in an area with an unfavorable climate (i.e. high humidity areas), or in an area with poor air quality.
Liquid cooling systems come highly regarded as they are considered to be more efficient than other systems. They also run much more quietly than traditional cooling systems do, which creates a more ideal environment for the technicians working within the data center. The main disadvantage to these systems, however, is the upfront costs; the equipment required to implement a liquid cooled system is very expensive, and they also require costly upkeep.
Portable cooling units (otherwise known as spot coolers) are an ideal solution if you are looking to affordably patch a temporary cooling concern, such as seasonal temperature fluctuations.
What are some of the more popular options?
For most data centers, traditional air-cooled systems are still the most prevalent cooling system in use, partly due to the introduction of various row-based and in-row cooling solutions. These solutions allow data center managers to resolve troublesome heat issues at their source; these solutions can be implemented where and when needed, providing a less costly alternative to increasing the entire data center cooling capacity. For new construction data centers, a shift towards more energy efficient solutions, such as free-air systems, is taking place.
What steps should buyers take to ensure the equipment they purchase can adequately cool the data center?
In order to determine what size air conditioning system will be required, you’ll first need to determine how much heat your system will generate. These numbers need to not only include the IT load itself, but also the power systems (UPSes and power distribution units), the heat generated by lighting equipment, and the number of people working within the data center. Once that data has been collected and compiled, that number will need to be inflated to account for redundancy, the effects of humidification, and future growth of the data center. A white paper published by Schneider Electric advises that, as a general rule for smaller network rooms (under 4,000 square feet), a CRAC system rating should be 1.3 times the projected IT load rating, plus any capacity added for redundancy. For larger data centers, more factors need to be taken into consideration, such as additional heat sources like roofs and walls, recirculation, etc.
What are some of the most common mistakes buyers make related to cooling equipment?
One of the most common mistakes made when purchasing cooling systems is sacrificing quality for cost. While you do not want to purchase a system that is overkill for your data center, you do want to make sure that you have the required capacity available for growth and redundancy, which ties directly into another common error: purchasing a system that is not scalable enough for your needs. Unless your plan is to not grow, make sure you are selecting a data center cooling system that can grow with you, not one that will become obsolete a few years down the road.