Traditionally, there are two ways of cooling a data center: air-based cooling and liquid-based cooling.
The first and most common, method within the realm of air-based cooling is what’s called ‘cold aisle/hot aisle.’ The idea is to separate the cold air from the hot air. This is done by facing the cold sides of each cabinet away from the hot sides of each cabinet, which creates a sort of convection system where the cabinets cool themselves. But this does not always work, and the data center managers have to pump a larger amount of cold air in. This older, inefficient method has limitations, which is why many data centers are moving towards new innovations.
The goal of a hot aisle/cold aisle configuration is to conserve energy and lower cooling costs by managing air flow. In its simplest form, hot aisle/cold aisle data center design involves lining up server racks in alternating rows with cold air intakes facing one way and hot air exhausts facing the other.
A similar process is called ‘cold or hot air containment’ focused on improving the older cold aisle/hot aisle method by physically isolating and containing the servers so the hot and cold air does not mix. Driving the air directly from the CRAC unit helps achieve this. This method works fairly well, but it does have the issue of hot spots.
The last method in the territory of air-based cooling is in-rack heat extraction. This method tries to achieve the same end goal of removing hot air but is done so by having compressors and chillers built into the rack itself. According to Schneider Electric, both Hot Aisle Containment (HACS) and Cold Aisle Containment (CACS) can provide savings. Hot aisle containment can provide 40% more savings than the Cold Aisle Containment. CACS traps the cold air within the system letting the rest of the data center become a hot-air return. While the HACS traps hot air and lets it leave through an exhaust system.
Water-cooled racks and servers are the first methods in liquid-based cooling. In this method, water is used to cool the hot side of the cabinet to bring the temperature down. Because water conducts electricity, the water never touches the actual components. The water is contained in basins, which then flows through pipes through cooling tower pumps. The water then runs alongside the server behind a barrier. The cold water helps bring down the temperature of the components inside. This method works well, but the risk of leaks scares many data center managers from using it.
The next liquid-based cooling method is liquid immersion cooling. In this method, liquid coolant flows across the hot components of a server cooling it down. The servers are fully emerged into the fluid. The way this is done is by using a dielectric fluid. This type of fluid does not conduct electricity but can damage components if not used properly
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