Page 1

Data Center Cooling: Fend Off The Phantom Meltdown Of Mass Destruction

670 Deer Road n Cherry Hill, NJ 08034 n 877.429.7225 n

How To Preserve Your Servers And Prevent Overheating Your high-performance, multiprocessor servers are working hard, computing tons of information and storing countless bytes of information. This takes up a lot of power, which converts directly into heat. Servers may be getting smaller and faster, but they’re also draining more power and, therefore, producing more heat. A typical 1U server expends 250 to 500W, which means the standard 42U server rack, with 40 servers stacked on top of each other, can drain 10 to 20kW and produce 35,000 to 70,000 British thermal units (BTUs) of heat. This requires three to six tons of cooling per rack. About ten years ago, this was the amount of cooling required for a 200x400 sq. ft. room with 10 to 15 42U racks! In other words, technology is truly turning up the heat.

What happens when a server overheats?

When the nodes around the CPU reach temperatures of about 85-90°F for even just a few consecutive minutes, you run a major risk of meltdown. In most cases, nothing is salvageable when the CPU blows out. This, of course, is extremely unfortunate considering you’ve now lost a very important, very expensive piece of equipment that was probably responsible for multiple critical business operations. Even if you replace the CPU and get your server up and running after the blowout, you’re still not in the clear. Since crucial components like memory, motherboard and power supply were exposed to extreme heat, they are now much more vulnerable to failure. This means you’re very likely to run into problems down the road – and sooner rather than later. In some ways, a meltdown is kind of like a data center phantom, haunting your network equipment with its relentless risk of malfunction and subpar functionality.

670 Deer Road n Cherry Hill, NJ 08034 n 877.429.7225 n

Get rid of the phantom meltdown before it strikes.

The best way to avoid meltdown destruction is to prevent the meltdown from happening in the first place. Here are some data center cooling tips to keep your server room cool and meltdown phantom free:

1. Survey and strategize.

Assess the vent locations and quality of airflow, and then plan the setup for your cooling fans to optimize this airflow.

2. Use hot aisles and cold aisles.

The goal of this strategic layout is to conserve energy and manage airflow, therefore lowering cooling costs. Essentially, it involves lining up server racks in alternating rows, with hot air exhausts facing one way and cold air intakes facing the other. The cold aisles are the rows that contain the rack fronts and typically face air conditioner output ducts. The heated exhausts pour into the hot aisles, which typically face the air conditioner return ducts. To isolate the hot aisles from the cold aisles and prevent air mixing, use a containment system. Plenum spaces, like raised floors, provide airflow pathways to prevent overheating. Vendors may offer other options that combine containment with variable fan drives (VFDs).

670 Deer Road n Cherry Hill, NJ 08034 n 877.429.7225 n

3. Clean out the clutter.

Clutter compromises airflow and circulation. Besides optimizing air movement, cleaning out the clutter also makes the room safer and easier to navigate. You’ll be especially grateful for this when you need to do work in the small, closed-in areas behind the racks.

4. Invest in premium, custom server racks.

Cheap enclosures just set up your data center for failure, so don’t fall for flimsy designs that won’t last for the long run. By combining the various elements and components your equipment needs into allinclusive, custom server rack solutions, you satisfy all your data center demands: rack, power, cooling, management and servicing needs. These components include server rack accessories like the following: • Power distribution units (PDUs) and power cable troughs • Air removal units and air conditioners • Seismic cabinets • Custom metal fabrication • Watertight housing • Soundproof enclosures

5. Get serious about monitoring at the rack level.

Many IT technicians and data center operators make the mistake of monitoring conditions at the room level, but ignore the conditions at the rack level. Your server racks are closest to that precious equipment, so this intimate level of monitoring must not be bypassed. When a heat issue arises, AC units try to compensate to fix the problem. So when you’re monitoring at just room level, the heat issue is only detected when the running AC units are no longer capable of compensating. Unfortunately, this may be too late to save your equipment. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recommends no less than six temperature sensors per rack in order to safeguard the full range of your equipment – top, middle and bottom of both front and back of your server racks.

670 Deer Road n Cherry Hill, NJ 08034 n 877.429.7225 n

At the very minimum, you should be monitoring the temperature per server rack at three points: • The bottom front of the rack, to verify the temperature of the cold air arriving to the rack (Note: This should be combined with airflow monitoring) • The top front of the rack, to make sure cold air is reaching the top of the rack • The top back of the rack, which is typically the hottest part of the rack - Intake temperature should be between 64° and 80°F (18° - 27°C). - Outtake temperature should typically not exceed 35°F (20°C) above the intake temperature, which means it should generally be less than 105°F (40°C). High-end systems do have auto shutdown functionality to protect against overheating, but this shutdown often happens too late – after systems experience computation errors at a CPU level, which results in major application errors. Implementing strategic, cost-efficient cooling tactics is the only way to fend off the data center phantom of equipment meltdown and prevent its overheating hauntings.

To learn more about Gaw’s commitment to custom components and quality data center enclosure solutions, visit us online at or call 1.877.429.7225 for a free consultation with one of our expert Enclosure Consultants.

670 Deer Road n Cherry Hill, NJ 08034 n 877.429.7225 n

Data center cooling  
Data center cooling  

Avoid a business catastrophe! Check out these tips to avoid a server meltdown.