Inefficient Cooling, Most Common Problem in Data Centers

neuCentrIX - 31/03/2022 10:00

A data center is a dedicated space in a building or a group of buildings that stores and shares applications and data. It contains routers, switches, firewalls, storage systems, servers, and application delivery controllers. Data centers proliferated with how almost everything has been digitized in the past few years.
Despite the growing use of data centers, the inefficiency has also been discussed a lot. A New York Article in 2012 examined how poor the rates of server utilization and the pollution it generates from the generator exhaust. A Stanford study also found that the unused data centers worldwide are worth around $30 billion. Another problem is that the data center also caused a vast energy waste due to the inefficient cooling system. 

The Overview 
We can imagine how substantial web-scale data centers are for a large company such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and so on. However, rest assured, as these companies have a super-efficient design for their data center cooling that gained a lot of attention. Unfortunately, these are only a tiny fraction of the world's available total data centers.
Compared to these few companies, there are plenty of data centers available that no one hardly ever hears about, for example, campus data centers, mid-size enterprise data centers, local government data centers, and so on. These have a larger total data center footprint, considering they house the majority of IT equipment in the world and the enormous energy consumed by the data center industry.
These more prominent portions of data centers are the ones that often have an inefficient cooling system. Some of the reasons include the lack of resources for infrastructure upgrades and simply because the teams behind the data centers think that energy consumption reduction is necessary.

The Adverse Effect of Inefficient Data Center Cooling System
There are plenty of reasons why you should not overcool your data centers. These are some of them:

  • Bad for the environment since it consumes a lot of energy and contributes 2% of the total global greenhouse gas emissions.

  • A negative brand image that is terrible for the environment also puts the brand in the hot spot. It makes people think that a brand does not care about its impact on the environment.

  • Not cost-effective, operating cooling systems at full blast costs a lot of money.

  • Uncomfortable environment for IT team, the cold environment is not suitable for the IT team who work in data centers, especially those who work in a place where low-temperatures are already an issue.

Sustainable Way to Cool Data Center
Overcooling data centers are the typical case found in the world. Generally, it happens due to hot spots and redundancy. However, you can fix both problems quickly with the correct air management procedures. 

Most data centers are equipped with redundant cooling systems turned on in total capacity to ensure that their data center remains reliable. To avoid overcooling, you need accurate knowledge and controls of the actual cooling requirements for the existing IT load. Once you know how much cooling is required, you can put the redundant cooling units in standby mode and turn them back on automatically only when they're needed.
Another reason for overcooling data centers is to fight hot spots. This happens when some servers become hotter than others, and the operator fills the room with cold air to make sure the more burning servers cool down. However, it also means that the other part of the data center becomes ice-cold. 

This can be addressed by implementing water evaporation or thermal reservoirs, especially in a cooler climate. In fact, the cold air from outside is also a great source to cool the equipment in a data center.

Understandably, the data center's manager prioritizes reliability by creating redundancy in cooling systems. However, it is essential to note that overcooling brings more adverse effects that need to be addressed as well. Without changes, these issues will persist and continue to cause problems in the long run.