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For many, the “cloud”, and the data center infrastructure that makes it up, is a kind of mystery – a magnificent feat of engineering and IT wizardry. But for those of us on the ground and in the field, the art of data center management is a series of balancing acts. To attain the equilibrium that assures uptime, data center systems – both material and virtual - require an equal dose of brainpower and computing power to satisfy the clients and companies that rely on them. Just as tired brains require nourishment to propel them through afternoon lulls, computer servers require cooling to keep their engines churning 24/7.

         Even in 2016, cooling delivery and heat rejection are significant concerns for data center managers, designers and investors. And while some strive for efficiency, others seek to deliver on promises of 99.99% uptime, especially in mission-critical industry sectors. There is no greater falsehood however, than to suggest that airflow, the scientifically-ordained driver of data center climates, is no longer a major concern for the industry. As Brian Mordick proclaims, heat is “the invisible enemy” of the data center and even with all of the arsenal of equipment available on the market today, “the key to keeping equipment cool is to channel or duct cool air to the equipment”. In other words, Airflow is still the principal factor in data center environmental management and will foreseeably continue to be as long as servers emit heat. In light of recent research that has come out on the state of the data center industry, we will see why Airflow still matters in 2016 and beyond.


#1 

Poor airflow management causes Downtime.

According to the 2016 Ponemon Institute Study, 10% of outages in data centers were caused by cooling failures or overheating. Such outages cost an average of $589,000 per incident ($100,000 greater than the cost of an average incident in 2010!). With these stakes in hand, it is prudent to suggest that airflow is just as important as it has ever been for success in the industry and will continue to be a top priority for years to come. Read the full report here.

Reason 1

#2

Facility-wide IT capacity is limited by airflow conditions.

Without proper airflow management, cooling units become inefficient, and fail to effectively and evenly distribute cooling to all racks and zones in your facility. Better airflow distribution can increase cooling capacity by an average of 30% in most cases. 30% more cooling, means 30% more IT capacity. 30% seems like an awful waste of space. These trends were first reported in the Energy Star Study and in  this Congressional Study.

Reason 2

#3

Overcooling is expensive and totally avoidable.

Given that on average, 40% of operational costs in data centers can be attributed to cooling expenses, reducing your cooling infrastructure wherever possible may be in your best financial interest and in most cases, may actually improve climate conditions. Overcooling is an industry-wide epidemic that is based on emotional rather than empirical motivations. Cooling infrastructure is only effective with a proper delivery system. Airflow is the delivery system of cooling and the most important heat extraction tool in a data center manager’s armamentarium. Follow this best practices guide to determine if your data center is overcooled

Reason 3

#4

Better airflow conditions may qualify your data center for an energy rebate.

Media scholar Tung-Hui Hu writes that recent data center constructions consume as much as 100 megawatts – the equivalent power consumption of eighty thousand homes (Check out his 2015 book here). Responding to these demands, governments in the United States – at the federal, state and local levels – have incentivized data centers to reduce their impact on electrical grids with energy rebates and tax credits for greater efficiency. Airflow management is one of the most cost-effective and logistically feasible methods by which a data center can optimize energy output. Click on this interactive map below to find out what energy rebates your state may qualify for.

Reason 4

#5

Over 2% of the world’s Green House Gas emissions in 2008 were from Data Centers!

In an exhaustively thorough analysis of data center energy consumption worldwide, Greenpeace calculated that if data centers were a country of their own, they would be the fifth most power-hungry country on the planet. While it is true that best practices in the industry are fostering greater efficiency, the colossal rate of growth in the market for cloud services in 2016 and beyond will continue to be propelled by fossil fuels and non-renewable energy sources for years to come. Rather than suggest a moral imperative for reducing carbon footprint, some scholars suggest that lawmakers will soon intervene and levy penalties to inefficient data centers as they have in Sweden. Read the full report here.

Reason 5
 

As colossal, exponential growth propels the market for cloud services in 2016 and beyond, colocation and enterprise data centers must rapidly evolve to meet increasing demands of computing power and heat rejection. Strategic airflow management is still the most sound soundest approach for mitigating thermal spikes, hotspots, cooling unit failures and overcooling problems in data centers. Since 2005, AdaptivCOOL, a technology brand of Degree Controls Inc., has engineered airflow and thermal management solutions for data centers at all scales of infrastructure. Our mission is to promote intelligent airflow management by outfitting data centers with hardware, software and sensing (the ability to control, manage and sense) capabilities that maximize efficiency and prevent thermal-related outages. Learn more.
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