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How To Use CFD Modeling to Improve Aisle-Level Thermal Management

Posted by: Mike Peterson on March 03, 2016

Last month, we provided tips on basic, low-cost data center enhancements that eliminate hotspots and improve thermal management without a lot of money or time invested. These measures close the physical gaps in your data center so you cut costs with easy energy-efficiency wins.

This month, we’re revisiting the topic of data center thermal management by talking about improvements that can be made at the aisle level.

These improvements will only be beneficial after you’ve conquered the basic methods we suggested last month to reduce operating costs and hotspots.

Contain and Separate Hot and Cold Air


Aisle containment literally provides a physical barrier between hot air and cold air (bypass air and recirculated air). There are two types of aisle containment solutions that provide this barrier: hot aisle containment and cold aisle containment. Because each data center has its own unique topology and requirements, there isn’t a right-or-wrong answer in terms of which containment solution is better.

Hot Aisle Containment

Hot aisle containment systems use ducted vertical panels to trap and contain hot exhaust air from the back of cabinets. By delivering hot air directly to the CRAC, the data center itself feels cooler; however, the aisles can reach temperatures of up to 110 degrees F. This makes technicians pretty uncomfortable when they conduct maintenance and repair work in an aisle. They’ll likely try a variety of ways to stay cool: bring in a fan, use a temporary cold air tile or prop the data center doors open (which is a major security issue).

Cold Aisle Containment

Cold aisle containment systems use horizontal panels to form a flat roof across the cold aisle and trap the cold air; vertical panels extend the cold aisle up to the ceiling for overhead ducted cooling systems. The data center space feels warmer, which isn’t a problem – but that “warm air” feeling may negatively impact opinions of data center visitors, especially in a colocation space. When potential clients feel that warm air, they may assume your data center can’t properly cool their servers.

So how can you decide whether hot aisle containment or cold aisle containment will work best for your data center environment?

Consider CFD Modeling for Decision-Making


As hard as you try, dealing with data center temperatures can be like herding cats – no matter what you do, the air doesn’t move how you expect it to (or in the way you want it to).

But there’s good news: Tools like CFD (computational fluid dynamics) modeling can provide predictive modeling data, information on the current state of your data center and predictions about the potential future state of your data center. With scientific reasoning to back it up, CFD modeling shows you where the air inside your data center will travel when you implement certain practices, and why it will travel that way.

When trying to decide whether hot aisle or cold aisle containment would offer your data center the most savings, CFD modeling offers scientific data that can help. It allows you to simulate a variety of scenarios and track temperatures as the air heats up and moves, along with tracking pressure changes based on the containment solution.

Consult with our Experts


Belden offers the tools and knowledge to help with data center thermal management. We provide cost-efficient solutions to improve cooling capacity, reduce operating expenses, eliminate hotspots and study the air inside your data center to maximize performance.

To learn more about addressing thermal management, schedule a call with one of our experts or watch this free webinar: Thermal Management Techniques to Improve Energy Efficiency. Stay tuned for future a blog post that identifies ways to improve thermal efficiency at the rack level.

What did you think of this blog article? Be sure to share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below!


Thermal Management Webinar


Tags:Thermal Management, Data Center

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