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Hot and Cold Aisle Containment in Data Centers

Feature Hot and Cold Aisle Containment in Data Centers - AnD Cable Management Blog

Data centers are often made up of hot and cold aisles, and the design of the hot / cold aisle data center is far from new. However, the traditional setup causes warm air exhaust from one aisle to flow into the air intake of the next, meaning that the overall efficiency of the data center is impacted. And really, that’s what hot and cool aisle containment is all about.

Hot and Cold Aisle Containment in Data Centers - AnD Cable Management Blog
Balancing hot and cold aisles is more important than ever to running an efficient data center

As rack density increases, especially in edge data centers and hyperscale data centers, the need for efficiency increases. This is also impacted by the fact that there are more green data centers, who may be generating their own energy using solar or other renewable resources. 

How does containment work and how does it impact your data center?

Remote Monitoring and Temperature Control

Of course, before we get to containment itself, it’s a good reminder to revisit physical layer monitoring. To know how effective any containment effort is, it’s necessary to monitor temperatures. This is most often done with temperature indicating panels, three per rack at the top, middle, and bottom, so that intake temperatures can be monitored regularly.

Of course, someone entering the area to manually check temperatures is yet another disruption to airflow, so remote monitoring as a part of physical network security is essential. This allows managers not only to monitor these temperatures, but receive alerts and take action if something goes wrong. 

A150 Remote Physical Layer Network Security Monitoring Elements
The A150 Remote Physical Layer Remote Monitoring system tracks temperature among many other elements that reduce risk and increase efficiency in data centers

But the most important fact for this discussion is to know what temperatures are so that efficiency and the effectiveness of containment can be monitored.

What is Aisle Containment?

Aisle containment is essentially isolating aisles by relative temperature. Essentially it means placing doors at the end of each aisle, and then adding panels, or barriers, from the top of the cabinet upwards. 

The more airtight this containment is, the more efficient cooling can be, and the easier it is to manage airflow. It’s pretty simple, but there are a couple of different approaches, each with its own pros and cons.

Hot vs. Cold Aisle Containment

There are two ways to manage aisle containment: hot and cold aisle containment. And they work exactly the way they sound.

  • Hot Aisle Containment: Hot aisles are contained, leaving the rest of the room at a more comfortable cool aisle temperature. It’s also easier to manage in many cases.
  • Cold Aisle Containment: Cold aisles are isolated or contained, which means the rest of the room stays at the warmer hot aisle temperature. This can also make getting the right amount of airflow tricky due to pressure changes, but managed properly it can deliver the most uniform temperature air to servers.. 

Choosing the right type of aisle containment for your data center depends on your situation, but there are some differences between new data center construction and retrofitting an existing data center.

Retrofitting vs. New Data Center Construction

In the case of a new data center, most of the time hot aisle containment is the method of choice. This is easier to set up in a new data center, as that allows you to start with the type of containment you need, and to set up HVAC systems and sensors to accommodate that. 

This creates an easier environment for technicians to work in when necessary, and is overall a more efficient choice. However, things are different when it comes to existing data centers

Existing data centers are easier to retrofit with cool aisle containment. While there is some additional monitoring, the way cooling systems work simply means this process is simpler in a currently operating system without creating expensive downtime for making moves and changes and installing containment. 

That doesn’t mean that no new data center will be built with cool aisle containment. It simply means that hot aisle containment is a more frequent choice. 

Partial Containment Solutions

When it comes to retrofitting, sometimes full aisle containment in either format is not possible. In those cases, partial containment is a solution. How is this achieved?

Often plastic strips can be used, similar to those you would go through walking into an industrial freezer or even certain restaurant kitchens. These can be hung at the end of aisles and from the tops of servers to the ceiling, just like other containment methods.

While not as effective, partial containment can be easy to retrofit and implement, and in some cases is about 75% as effective as full containment. For existing data centers looking for a quick and inexpensive efficiency solution, partial containment is a viable option. 

But containment is just a part of rack cooling solutions, and there are some new and exciting ones. 


WHITEPAPER – Optimizing Server Cabinet Rack Space to Maximize Efficiency and Reduce Costs

Optimizing Server Cabinet Rack Space to Maximize Efficiency and Reduce Costs FREE Guide - AnD Cable Products

Smart optimization can help you increase rack space and realize significant equipment cost savings. Read our step-by-step guide that shows you how – and how much you could save.

  • How Much Rack Space You Could Save
  • How to Optimize for Maximum Efficiency
  • Savings for New and Retrofit Installations
  • Overall Cost and Space Savings Post-Optimization

The Addition of Liquid Cooling

Data center cooling has evolved from older, inefficient systems to more contemporary ones in a relatively short period of time. However, one thing that has been around for a while but is experiencing a boom in denser, modern data centers is liquid cooling. 

Why? Well, in most cases liquid cooling is more efficient than air cooling in data centers, and when the two are used in conjunction, generally the best results can be achieved. The larger data centers get, the more power they consume, the greater the push towards a blended approach to cooling that not only saves power and is better for the environment, but prolongs the life of equipment and saves space as well. 

But even with the addition of liquid cooling, it’s all about efficient use of rack space and the airflow around them. 

It’s All About Airflow

No matter what kind of aisle containment is used, and no matter how efficient the cooling system, saving space, improving efficiency, and keeping things organized, maximizing rack space efficiency and airflow is vital.

That’s why data centers choose ZeroU racks and cable management systems. They not only help avoid the spaghetti mess and all the cable issues that can arise from it, but also help maximize airflow and save significant rack space in any system.

Whether you are retrofitting a data center or engaged in new construction, we have the rack system that’s right for you. 

Contact AnD Cable Products today for all of your cable, rack, and physical network security needs. We’d love to start a conversation about the right solution for you. 

About the Author

Louis Chompff - Founder, AnD Cable Products, Rack and Cable ManagementLouis Chompff – Founder & Managing Director, AnD Cable Products
Louis established AnD Cable Products – Intelligently Designed Cable Management in 1989. Prior to this he enjoyed a 20+ year career with a leading global telecommunications company in a variety of senior data management positions. Louis is an enthusiastic inventor who designed, patented and brought to market his innovative Zero U cable management racks and Unitag cable labels, both of which have become industry-leading network cable management products. AnD Cable Products only offer products that are intelligently designed, increase efficiency, are durable and reliable, re-usable, easy to use or reduce equipment costs. He is the principal author of the Cable Management Blog, where you can find network cable management ideas, server rack cabling techniques and rack space saving tips, data center trends, latest innovations and more.
Visit https://andcable.com or shop online at https://andcable.com/shop/

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4 Cable Improvements That Increase Data Center Efficiency and Build Scalability

4 Cable Improvements That Increase Data Center Efficiency and Build Scalability

The data center of the future is needed now. Added to rising growth in a world lived increasingly online, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and 5G are driving greater demand for data speed and volume. How can you ensure your data center is operating at peak performance now – and has the capacity to sustain performance as demand grows? Building for scalability is the key. Fortunately, those elements that create data center efficiency now lay the groundwork for your ability to respond well in the future.

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4 Cable Improvements That Increase Data Center Efficiency and Build Scalability

Building Data Center Efficiency

When we talk about scalability in data centers, we are actually talking about two different things. The first is the physical layer, which includes new data servers, switches, storage devices and cable managers. By optimizing server rack space and ensuring effective network cable management, efficiency and uptime can be improved, reducing the footprint required for server hardware and lowering equipment costs.

The second, and more complex, is the infrastructure that supports increasing data rates and volumes. With AR, VR, 5G and the IoT demanding data rates and speeds never seen before, data centers need to respond strategically to remain competitive. Given the escalating growth rate, it’s safe to say that decisions made today will have a dramatic impact on capacity to deliver unprecedented volumes of data, both in and out. For peak data center efficiency, you need to be dense (physical), fast (the right cabling), and cost effective. This includes transitioning from 40G to 100G and eventually the emerging 400G ethernet capability. It not only means more fiber cable, but an increased number of connections. The following factors will affect data center efficiency and scalability directly.

Bandwidth

The demand for speed and higher bandwidth has instigated a migration from OM3 and OM4 multimode cabling to the faster and more efficient OM5. OM5 has some serious advantages over OM3/4, including:

  • Color – OM5 is ‘lime green’ in color, while the OM3/4 is usually aqua colored
  • Compatibility – Jacket size remains at the industry recognized standard (2mm), so it can be retrofitted with OM3/4 without a major change in infrastructure
  • Scalability – OM5 has the capacity to support current data needs and the 400G needs of the future
  • More efficient – OM5 is more efficient at longer distances

It’s worth noting that OM5 is more expensive currently, as cables have to be custom made, whereas OM3/OM4 are production cables, pre-made by the thousands and in all stock lengths.

Because of this, perhaps the best feature of OM5 is its compatibility with OM3/4. There is no need to change the entire network at once, so changes can be made incrementally as the needs of the data center change.

The main thing to remember is that scalability demands the ability to increase bandwidth at need. Hence the time to plan for what’s next is now.

Insertion Loss

The simplified version of insertion loss is this: the more connectors you have, the greater potential there is for loss of speed. A lower insertion loss means a stronger signal. Data centers should understand their insertion loss margin.

This margin is the actual insertion loss experienced vs. the standard insertion loss, and it can be affected by a number of things. So how do you reduce insertion loss?

  • Rack optimization – The right rack and cabling solutions will reduce the distance data has to travel, decreasing loss
  • Air flow – Temperature controls, or factoring in realistic temperatures, help manage insertion loss expectations
  • Connectors fit for purpose – The right connection components will also reduce loss, and the expected loss of these components should be factored in when being calculated

Efficient data center that are set up to be denser and reduce the distance data has to travel, have lower potential for insertion loss. Note the word “potential.” Since many factors, from the quality of cabling and connections, to the efficiency of rack and cabling solutions can have an impact, its necessary to look at this factor from several angles.

Skew

Skew is the difference between the time it takes light to travel on different fibers. Too much skew can result in data loss or errors.

The standards for skew are tight in parallel optical cabling solutions, as low as .075 n-s (nanoseconds). The simple reason for this, is that skew can affect the longevity of optical cables and how scalable they are when it comes to higher data rates and volumes – two of the primary factors in scalability.

This is another factor that can get complicated at times, and is influenced by the length of cables, the type of cable used and more. The key is to know what to look for in parallel optical circuits: low skew components with tight tolerances over the distance you need to run them.

Physical Layer Optimization

We’ve mentioned that for peak data center efficiency, you need to be dense, fast and cost effective, enabling you to be scalable and respond rapidly to future data volume and speed needs. While cabling and connectors are important, the fourth factor is making the best use of your physical layer.

Fundamental to this is the optimization of server racks and cable management systems. This means optimizing your server configuration. One of the smartest ways to do so, is to replace your 1RU and 2RU horizontal managers with intelligently designed Zero U cable managers, which use no additional rack space. The patented system design by AnD Cable Products can take you from using four racks to three through smart rack optimization.

Multiply that by the number of server racks in your system, and you’re looking at real space savings. Add better cable management and more efficient cables, and you can reduce your physical footprint, and equipment costs, significantly.

Cable management systems need to help regulate air flow, ensure devices are easily accessible and allow for cable identification and tracking.

The choices you make now around how you optimize your rack and cable management, bandwidth, insertion loss and skew can set you apart and ensure your readiness to meet the needs of tomorrow.

How are you preparing to meet the future, today? Have questions about your current rack systems, cables, and even system security? AnD Cable Products can help – Contact us today.

Understanding Stranded and Solid Conductor Wiring in Modern Networks

Understanding Stranded and Solid Conductor Wiring in Modern Networks - AnD Cable Products Whitepaper

An overview of the differences between stranded and solid conductor wiring, the properties of each and the best cable type to use in a variety of typical settings.

  • Types of Stranded and Solid Conductor Wiring
  • Comparison of Electrical Properties
  • Factors Impacting Attenuation / Insertion Loss
  • Choosing the Right Cable

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About the Author

Louis Chompff - Founder, AnD Cable Products, Rack and Cable ManagementLouis Chompff – Founder & Managing Director, AnD Cable Products
Louis established AnD Cable Products – Intelligently Designed Cable Management in 1989. Prior to this he enjoyed a 20+ year career with a leading global telecommunications company in a variety of senior data management positions. Louis is an enthusiastic inventor who designed, patented and brought to market his innovative Zero U cable management racks and Unitag cable labels, both of which have become industry-leading network cable management products. AnD Cable Products only offer products that are intelligently designed, increase efficiency, are durable and reliable, re-usable, easy to use or reduce equipment costs. He is the principal author of the Cable Management Blog, where you can find network cable management ideas, server rack cabling techniques and rack space saving tips, data center trends, latest innovations and more.
Visit https://andcable.com or shop online at https://andcable.com/shop/