The specific architectural configuration of a servers rack and other computing hardware in a data center is referred to as containment. Hot aisle containment and cold aisle containment solutions ensure hot air within the system is circulated back to the AC, removing hot spots by creating a constant airflow ideal for optimal performance.
Creating an optimal server operating temperatures, however, requires the separate containment of the hot exhaust air (HAC) from the cold air flow (CAC) — a process that happens in the radiator. By splitting the two, data centers can experience uniform temperature that is reliable in eliminating potential overheating of sensitive equipment which can lead to data loss.
Typically, it requires a lot of energy to maintain optimal server temperature in standard data centers which translates to high energy costs. That’s why about 80% of data centers employ or are looking into installing hot or cold aisle containment solutions to keep servers at the correct temperatures and reduce energy use.
Cold Aisle Containment System
Cold-Aisle containment includes the confinement of cold aisles inside the data center. A supply of cool air is then allowed through the cool aisle and adjusted based on the server airflow specifications.
The physical barrier which encloses cool air can be made from different materials including metal, plastic or glass. Having transparent barriers enables monitoring and makes it practical for use under room lighting.
One of the key benefits of cold aisle containment solutions, however, is perhaps the fact that they can be used with both elevated and non-elevated floor. When installed properly and controls configured correctly, these systems can offer improved efficiency in adjusting the airflow within the processor.
But there are some drawbacks associated with cold-aisle containment — perception and operational issues. Another challenge facing the use of CAC especially when installed in an existing data center is system configuration. This is because pre-existing fixtures like fire protection and lighting have to be adjusted to accommodate the containment system.
Hot-Aisle Containment System
This system encloses the hot aisles with doors on the end within the data center. It relies on the principle of warm air rising which is then forced to the AC through a ceiling plenum or ductwork. Through the same channel, the cool supply air is allowed back into the room through the elevated floor.
Hot-aisle containment has an advantage over cold-aisle containment in that it ensures uniform airflow across the entire data center space. This clears out the operational and perception issues by visitors who might think that there is insufficient cooling of the IT equipment.
Another advantage of hot-aisle containment is that it allows accurate airflow distribution and it’s not necessary for the cool air to be introduced directly through the server intakes provided it’s released into the general space. This system can be used without raised floors and the need for extensive supply ductwork.
Some of the disadvantages of hot-aisle containment you need to know to include uncomfortable working conditions, especially when accessing its infrastructure. This is why installers will consider temporary local cooling solutions to carry out maintenance and repairs. But you also need to factor in the high hot-aisle temperatures and this is particularly important if you’ll constantly need to access its infrastructure or equipment.