Winter air unlocks data centre savings

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Winter air unlocks data centre savings

Free cooling is starting to become an option for Aussie data centres, particularly in Canberra and Melbourne.

Several operators locally are said to be looking closely at the potential use of airside economisers to bring in ambient air to chill their centres, particularly during the winter months, according to Mark Roberts, business development manager – IT at Rittal.

Rittal has mapped the average temperatures recorded in Australian capital cities to determine which markets have the most potential.

“In Sydney, for example, you can start with elements of free cooling from April, and you could almost free cool for the entire month of July,” said Roberts.

“Canberra and Melbourne are even better.”

Rittal recommends that centre operators run their chillers at 15 degrees Celsius – higher than the industry average of between seven and eight degrees.

This is the inflection point at which operators can also start to introduce some level of free cooling into their environments.

Free cooling requires the use of an airside economiser. It acts as a modulation valve to sense when it is possible to bring outside air in to cool the centre – but the concept can also introduce additional cost, according to Roberts.

“You need significant fans to generate air flow between the outside environment and the data centre, and also special filters for contaminants in the air,” said Roberts.

Most operators looking at free cooling can still be described as ‘early adopters’, Roberts told iTNews.

However, it is being recognised as one of several ways to reduce data centre power consumption and total cost. Other ways include batch processing overnight when electricity costs are less.

Roberts also confirmed that physical load balancing is becoming more of an issue for data centre managers.

He cited one example where a New Zealand company wanted to maximise the physical load capacity of each rack due to floor weight limits.

“We’ve been asked to take off the level feet and transport castors [from the base] to spread the load more evenly across the frame,” explained Roberts.

“We’ve also heard of at least another two similar instances of stack issues with physical loads. Customers generally have been asking us to increase the load rating of our racks.”

This matches continuing miniaturisation of IT equipment, such as blade servers.

The ongoing densification is putting more emphasis on finding innovative ways to cool equipment.

Recent trends include bolting Perspex roofs between racks to create air-pressurised environments.

This is said to more effectively trap and circulate cold air and increase efficiency because less cold air is lost to general in-room dynamics.
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