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Data centre cooling: cold aisle containment explained

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The layout of a data centre is mission-critical. To the untrained eye, data centre racks are simply aligned in a logical, orderly fashion. As a Data Centre Manager, I can tell you that the placement of servers is carefully and meticulously planned to allow for maximum efficiency. Cold aisle containment is a layout designed to achieve energy efficiency and reduce cooling costs, through successful management of air flow. Many data centres are now utilising this design as their layout of choice, and I aim to explain why within this blog.

Cold Aisle Containment Explained

Cold aisle containment works on the same principles as a refrigerator. Leave the refrigerator door open and the room will get hotter. For every extra degree of cooling needed, it uses an exponential amount of energy as most of the chilling effect escapes. Turn the fridge off and the contents and the room remain at the same temperature, with a mean lower than running the chilling. Close the door and the contents will cool, with the room only warming slightly. Cold aisle containment is like closing the refrigerator door, a phenomenon clearly visible in supermarkets where open chillers are being replaced with closed cabinets.

Why Cold Aisle Containment?

cold aisle containment podYou can choose to contain either the heat or the cold, and the choice is largely down to the layout of the facility. Though there is little overall cost benefit either way, cold aisle containment gives a clear data centre management advantage, with the hot areas being significantly cooler than those in the contained hot area model. This is due to the increased area available over which to spread hot air, thus giving a better working environment. An additional benefit of cold aisle containment is the ability to direct the contained cold air to specific equipment based on the power being consumed, by simply adjusting floor vents manually or through automated, motorised vented tiles.

There is an argument for opposing hot aisle containment technologies, but in my experience, cold aisle containment has always been much simpler to implement and given rise to excellent data centre efficiency and effectiveness. For more information on cold aisle containment, take a virtual tour of our Reading data centre.

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