What Are Data Center Cooling Systems, Methods and Technologies?

Updated on Jun 1, 2022

Currently, the data center cooling technology is pushing for its optimum state to maintain suitable environmental conditions for IT equipment. With the increasing demand for data center operational efficiency, data center engineers are constantly forced to look for more advanced technologies and methods that can help with cooling.

To improve cooling, engineers must take care of a set of tasks upfront. This involves rejecting the heat from the IT equipment into the heat sink, the cooling operators working without interruption, and the optimum design that minimizes heat transfers.

Mechanical engineers have found it very difficult to get past the idea of ‘comfort cooling’ for operators within the data centers. Legacy data center designs have always focused on the residence and the office space before thinking about the data center cooling.

Since the data centers are extremely energy-intensive, it is not uncommon for cooling equipment to use up as much energy or even more than the energy consumed by the computers themselves. Here’s a quick look at the data center cooling market.


Data Center Cooling Market Growth

Data centers came about as a cost-effective solution to the problem of mounting expenses incurred from the uninterrupted in-house supply of IT services. It is not surprising then that a typical data center can consume the same energy that is consumed by some 25,000 households.

The rising costs of electricity consumption have forced data center engineers to look for ways and methods that can deliver ultimate efficiency when it comes to energy consumption.

Until the mid-2000s, cooling increasingly power-intensive servers continued to prove a huge challenge. Once the design densities surpassed the 5 kilowatts (kW) milestone, designers began to think about alternative cooling methods and technologies actively.

Since then, data center cooling has seen a lot of advancement, as well as the introduction of new methods such as in-row cooling and heat exchangers.data center cooling


Why Is Data Center Cooling Important?

Data center cooling is one of the most important aspects for industry leaders because the failure to enhance cooling with the increasing number of transistors fitted on the chips and the resulting heat will mean a set of physical limitations to how these chips are designed in the future.

The famous Economic Meltdown of Moore’s Law proposed by Ken Brill in 2007 necessitated the introduction of technological advances to counter the potential problem of overconsumption of electricity by the cooling equipment in the data centers.

By utilizing the right strategies, it is possible for data centers to increase efficiency without compromising reliability. Here are some of the methods and technologies employed by data centers to increase cooling efficiency.


How Are Data Centers Cooled?

Legacy data centers have famously and successfully utilized the concept of the raised floor to deliver cold air to servers. Typically, the cold air from the computer room air conditioner CRAC (or the air handler) passes through the plenum below and across a perforated tile to enter the main space. Once past the server, the heated air goes back to the air conditioner room to be cooled.

While the concept of raised floors is still applied in many modern-day data centers, there are now other methods and organization strategies to enhance cooling.


Data Centers Cooling Methods and Systems

Data centers can easily optimize their cooling efficiency by improving the organization and placement of their equipment. It is a vital task of these data centers to ensure that they maintain the best temperatures for increased productivity. Here are some of the few ways to achieve the optimal arrangement.

Hot / Cold Aisle Arrangement

Allowing the hot and cool air to mix can lead to inefficient energy consumption. This is because the equipment is devoid of the temperature needed to function at its best mode. By implementing the hot/cold aisle method, data centers prevent the two kinds of air from mixing. Basically, the racks are positioned in such a way that the hot and cool air ends up passing along separate lanes.Hot / Cold Aisle Arrangement

Free Cooling

Free cooling is a minimalistic cooling ritual that brings down the overall cost of cooling in a data center. This system helps ensure that the data center’s airflow enjoys the optimal temperature. Basically, there are two components to this system: water-side economization and air-side economization. The air-based system is slightly risky since this involves regulating outdoor air to cool the equipment, but the water-based system may bring in pollutants.

Chilled Water System

A chilled water system is another economical and efficient way to maintain cooling. This is because, unlike the hot air that has to be supplied to every area of the facility, the chilled water can be directly applied to the target. This system involves chilled water running through the coils that deposit the heat-engulfed air into the chiller connected to the CRAH.


Containment is another way to prevent hot and cold air from mixing. The two kinds of air are isolated and the operators constantly monitor the air in the hot aisle to ensure it is not over-extended. To know more about data center containment, you can read Data Center Containment: Types, Benefits & ChallengesContainment

Rack Arrangement

Rack arrangement can also play a role in maximizing cooling. Data centers like to rearrange the components within a rack in such a way that the heaviest component finds itself at the bottom racks. This is because heavier racks circulate the greatest amount of air. Placing it at one of the lower racks can allow less of the hot air to disperse.

Cable Organization

Cable organization is a small step towards enhanced cooling but one that can make a bit of a difference. Data centers must ensure that the cables do not obstruct the airflow. Here’s a Guideline for Organizing Server Rack.


Data Center Cooling Technologies

Below we make a special note of those methods that utilize modern technologies for improved cooling.

Blanking Panels

Blanking panels obstruct the hot air from entering your data center’s air space allowing greater cooling. Not using blanking panels can permit excess heat to take up the unoccupied rack space obviously bringing down both the cooling and efficiency of the servers.Blanking Panels

Pumped Refrigerant

This technique involves a heat exchanger that pumps chilled water by utilizing a cold pumped refrigerant to reject the heat. This system efficiently reduces the humidity and paves way for considerable savings since the energy is transmitted from the servers.Pumped Refrigerant

Indirect Air Evaporative System

This method is used in locations where the outdoor air is cooler than the temperature within. With the help of an air duct connected to an indirect air evaporative cooler, colder air is added to the air space within the data center.Indirect Air Evaporative System

The Importance of Environmental Monitoring

Finally, data centers constantly monitor and manage the temperature environments, air pressure, humidity levels, hot spots, and airflow in real-time with environmental sensors. This kind of environmental monitoring is important to maintain the optimum temperature cutting back avoidable costs that stem from unnecessary heating.

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