Is your data center running a fever? It could be an airflow problem

Is your data center running a fever? It could be an airflow problem

Downtime for an organization can be a burden on the bottom line. But in health care, a technical failure that inhibits access to patient data could degrade the quality of medical care a facility can provide, and may result in penalties and fees. 

Now that summer has officially kicked off, the heat and humidity will be especially problematic for data center operators in health care as they try to optimize their facilities for uptime. This doesn't just entail making sure the uninterruptible power supply is action-ready for summer blackouts. It also means ensuring that the facility's climate maintains safe temperature and humidity levels. Heat spikes can, and have, caused data center outages. 

But before you dial up the computer room air conditioners (CRAC), you'll definitely want to read this. It may help explain why your data center is running a fever, despite the fact that you're blasting the A/C.

Your CRAC is just fine, but how's your airflow?

"This airflow cycle is how data centers breathe."

Cooling a data center with hundreds or even thousands of servers takes a lot more than just cranking the A/C. It demands the methodical expulsion of warm air, which must be displaced by cool air that has been treated by the CRAC. This airflow cycle is how data centers breathe, and often, it's the reason that data center temperatures continue to rise despite a fully functional CRAC unit.

If hot air is not properly contained after it passes through equipment, it may circulate back into the room, or linger behind cabinets. Two problems may arise as a result: The cool air being released from perforated tiles might end up mixing with warm air before it reaches the equipment it's meant to cool, and/or hot air may end up lingering at the backs of cabinets, slowly raising the temperature of equipment. 

The "knee-jerk" reaction is often to increase cooling capacity, but this is a mistake more often than not, according to TechBeacon contributor Stephen J. Vaughan-Nichols, because it still won't eliminate the source of heat escaping. It'd be like blowing harder into a balloon because there's a hole in it. Even if you can keep the balloon from deflating, it'll take a lot more energy to do the job. 

Cranking the cooling capacity isn't the answer.Cranking the cooling capacity isn't the answer.

Stop the problem at its source

The key to a reliable airflow management system like Geist ActiveAir is smart containment. Rather than basing airflow entirely on room temperature, pressure sensors embedded within a cabinet- or rack-based containment chimney dictate exhaust fan speeds. 

This solves the problem of warm and cold air mixing by ensuring that fans will adjust rotation speeds to continue drawing all warm air back into the return plenum so that it can be treated and released again as cool air. The result is lower cooling capacity without the data center fever, and more importantly, one less source of downtime for health care organizations to fret over.