Bed sheets cover up widening data centre crisis

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Bed sheets cover up widening data centre crisis

A Sydney data centre has resorted to hanging cotton sheets from the roof to alter in-room airflows, highlighting the cooling crisis faced by many Australian operators.

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It is understood that other centres are placing chimneys over hot equipment to exhaust the hot air straight through the roof, or installing false roofs between racks to negate inadequate floor pressure.

“We see a lot of inefficient use of air-conditioning,” said Brad Ferguson, managing director of The Frame Group, a Sydney-based technology services company.

“There is no regard to the aerodynamics or airflow within the facility or even how equipment is placed into racks. We’re currently working on one [centre] in Victoria like this.”

The ‘quick fixes’ underlie what appears to be a growing trend in the data centre space – that many businesses have outgrown their buildings and aren’t sure where to turn next.

“A lot of customers are taking out short-term leases because they don’t know if the facility can handle their requirements long-term,” said Bruce McEwen, director of Galileo Connect.

“The only reason to go short-term is if you want to move, but the cost of moving a data centre is horrendous and failure isn’t an option.

“We’re seeing customers staying in older, unsuitable facilities due to the cost and dangers of moving out,” McEwen told iTnews.

Those who stay are implementing strategies such as those described above to extend the life of their buildings.

Others are playing what McEwen calls ‘hot/cold games’, referring to use of the hot/cold aisle concept to prolong the capacity of an existing centre.

This involves dividing the centre into a series of ‘hot’ aisles where racks face each other, and ‘cold’ aisles which run behind each row of racks.

Hypothetically, cold air pumped into the cold aisle is drawn through the fans in the mounted equipment on both sides of the aisle. The resulting hot air is exhausted into the adjacent aisle.

“Hot/cold design causes unnatural placement of equipment,” said McEwen.

“A very wide data hall is just an absolute basket case to manage from an airflow point of view. If you don’t have to play hot/cold games then that’s a godsend for design.”

McEwen believes the mid- to long-term resolution is that new energy efficient, flexible and upgradeable data centres need to be built and customers moved into them ‘in a planned and scheduled way’.

This modular approach to data centre engineering and design is critical because the next generation of centres need to provide a safe infrastructure environment for the next 20 to 25 years.

Read on to page 2 for an alternative strategy to cotton sheets.

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