When we talk about data center density, what does that mean? To most, it relates to the amount of computing power (or power draw) per rack or per square foot. The more power per rack or square foot, the higher the density.

People – whether they’re employees, guests, patients, students, etc. – are bringing multiple power-hungry, high-volume-data devices with them wherever they go. They expect to connect no matter what. At work? Absolutely. At the grocery store? For sure. At a hotel? Yes! In order to keep up, data centers are continuing to increase power loads to racks.

AFCOM – an organization that helps advance data center and IT infrastructure professionals – categorizes data center density into four groups based on power per rack:

  • Up to 4 kW per rack (low density)
  • 5 kW to 8 kW (medium density)
  • 8 kW to 15 kW (high density)
  • More than 16 kW (extreme density)

A recent DataCenterDynamics report indicates that the average power per rack is about 4 kW; however, 58% of racks consume 5 kW, 28% consume between 5 kW and 10kW, and the remaining 14% consume more than 10 kW. And we anticipate that these numbers will only increase.

Besides the increase in users and devices, as we mentioned earlier, what else is driving the increase data center density?

The Desire to Consolidate Servers

Through virtualization, server consolidation increases data center density by combining virtual machines onto fewer physical servers. Why? By creating a “virtual” version of something – such as hardware – virtualization allows a virtual machine to act like a real computer with an operating system. This reduces the number of cabinets and pieces of equipment necessary, and decreases the amount of cable that must be run. When servers are consolidated, however, the host equipment draws more power, increasing power per rack.

The Desire to Reduce Operating Costs

By increasing data center density, energy and operating costs can potentially decrease. The more computing power you can provide in each area dedicated to a cabinet, the more you can save. By doing more in the same amount of space, you can maximize use of power and cooling.

The Desire to Improve Space Utilization

Data center space is valuable – and data center managers are recognizing the benefits of operating as efficiently as possible in a space that is as small as possible.

Expanding vertically instead of horizontally – up instead of out – can increase in data center density without the need for costly infrastructure changes. When more computing can be done in a smaller amount of space, it frees up square footage for other equipment, allows you to reduce the size of your data center and/or allows the data center to grow to accommodate future technology.

How Data Center Capacity Impacts Operations

As more resources are packed into racks, driving up data center density, there are a few things data center managers should keep in mind:

  • When density is increased at the rack level, more heat is generated by the equipment, therefore requiring an understanding of the cooling and air handling (supply and return) specific to the computing space.
  • As racks accommodate more equipment, they may become heavier – this may ultimately require new racks with larger load ratings, and/or data center floors that can withstand heavier loads.
  • Containment (hot/cold aisles, chimney) may be needed to keep cold air (supply) and hot air (return) separated, as well as define a clear return path of hot air to the cooling system.

Belden can help you create a high-density data center that lowers operating costs, ensures uptime and improves space utilization. We’ll show you how you can handle the same amount of computing – while planning for the future – utilizing the same amount of space.