As data centers increasingly become the heart of businesses, proper distribution and cable management have also taken on new importance. Traditional methods of preventing air damming, cooling vital components and ensuring proper containment simply fail to deliver. Today’s complex cabling networks rely on intelligent planning to attain flexibility, reliability and efficiency that keep pace with technology and meet the demands of the modern data center. IT professionals are turning to the future of structured-cable management and using design to ensure proper distribution, eliminate air damming, produce better PUE numbers and better manage data centers; these strategies can benefit your business.
The Challenge of Air Damming
For many businesses, server racks and cables were initially installed to meet existing needs without putting much thought into how quickly technology would advance and how needs would evolve. As a result, businesses are now rapidly adding densities to old systems and suffering real consequences. Additional components and cables mean data centers aren’t just running less efficiently than they could, but they’re actually pushing hardware past recommended stress and temperature levels.
Improper cable distribution inevitably leads to air-damming problems that prevent air from circulating and being expelled through the exhaust system. Air damming occurs in places where cable density has become so great that no room is left for proper airflow. Warm and cold air can become trapped in different areas of the system and create inconsistent cooling. Ultimately, this situation puts the entire data center at risk.
Hot spots are a common problem in these types of systems, but not for the reasons you might think. Many IT departments assume that the existing equipment is simply incapable of providing the right cooling or that the heat is too much to be handled effectively. Often, however, all the right precautions are in place, but cooling tools are unable to work to their full capacity because of cable-structuring issues and poor air-management practices. Businesses don’t necessarily need to invest in new equipment; they simply need the right air-management and structured-cabling strategies to allow existing equipment to work properly.
Air damming may seem like a minor annoyance, but it can produce real consequences. Data centers that are constantly having to address airflow have an IT department that’s tied up trying to solve a reoccurring problem rather than focusing on furthering the business through innovate new ideas. In addition, inefficient data centers garner poor PUE numbers, which means higher utility bills and operational costs. Air damming ends up wasting human capital while also eating away at earnings and putting sensitive and vital information at risk.
Best Ways to Eliminate Air Damming
Over the years, data centers have employed a wide variety of both temporary and permanent solutions to prevent air damming and deal with hot spots. From creating hot and cold aisles to raising data center floors and incorporating perforated tiles, airflow management has taken on many forms. Some solutions are more sophisticated, whereas others rely on IT experts manually checking for hot spots and pointing fans at the problems areas.
Although some of these solutions remain relevant and useful in a pinch, the future of airflow management comes down to intelligent structured-cable design. The right layout can eliminate the need for more-intrusive and disruptive data center redesigns and allow for better airflow even in the face of increasing densities. These designs should also employ forward thinking so that businesses can continue to expand and add components without putting an inordinate load on cooling components and reducing overall efficiency.
The Benefits of Efficient Air Management
Fewer hot spots and air damming problems will not only protect sensitive equipment and vital data, it will also create a more efficient data center and reduce operating costs. Power usage effectiveness (PUE), developed in 2006 by The Green Grid, has since become the international standard for measuring computing energy efficiency. The rating indicates how much of the energy used by a data center goes directly to the computing system rather than being lost or wasted through inefficiencies. In 2008, Google achieved a PUE of 1.21. At the time, experts doubted whether anyone could greatly improve on Google’s rating, but in early 2017, Supermicro introduced a system that rated a 1.06 PUE—a nearly perfect score.
Without proper air-management practices, modern PUEs would be impossible to achieve. As a result, data centers would continue to waste energy, pay more for operations and experience less effective cooling capabilities. Now that companies have proven what’s possible, others can follow suit and employ the same efficient airflow-management strategies that prevent air damming and keep air circulating, even in the densest and most complicated cable networks.
Well-designed data centers that have been created with the elimination of air damming in mind also make relocation easier and less disruptive. Data center moves can be a sensitive undertaking that’s only further complicated by dense and confusing cabling networks. Clear organization allows movers to take a thorough and accurate inventory and safely transport and reconfigure the network in a new location. Businesses can be up and running without worrying about excessive downtime and loss of revenue.
The Future of Structured Cabling and Air Management
Management and IT professionals should be designing with flexibility in mind. Every aspect of business, from human resources to information technology, must work to create a more flexible and adaptive model. Technology is progressing quickly, setting a rigorous pace that simply can’t be matched without unprecedented flexibility. Any and all data center and cabling solutions must be designed with expansion in mind while also taking into account the yet unpredicted directions that innovation might follow.
Although air damming in data centers is a common problem, it’s also one with clear solutions. Traditional methods of creating hot and cold aisles and monitoring for hot spots remain relevant, but they provide only temporary patches without getting to the root of the problem. Proper distribution of cables and structured-cable design solves longstanding problems while also offering clear benefits. From eliminating air damming and freeing up valuable IT staff to reducing operational costs, proper cabling distribution is the best and most cost-effective way to make today’s common air-management and cooling challenges a thing of the past.
About the Author
Jeff Hodges works in data center infrastructure cabling for Datanet IT, an IT company at the forefront of the technology industry. Datanet IT’s record includes thousands of successful deployments, which have helped earn the company a reputation for excellence. By offering the best in products, expertise and customer service, it delivers reliable and cost-effective solutions that are customized to meet the needs of individual customers.