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5 Things You Have to Know About Airflow Volume

Posted by QuoteColo on July 26, 2016 - Updated on August 04, 2016

AirflowIf you’ve been paying attention to the data center industry over the past few years, you probably already know that airflow management has become a very hot topic. This is for good reason. The airflow volume in a data center can truly make or break its overall performance. However, before you go and implement a roughshod airflow management strategy, consider the following five factors you must know about. Otherwise, you risk wasting money or even destroying servers.

What Is Airflow?

Before we proceed, let’s make sure we’re working from a shared definition. This is definitely something you’ll want to know about airflow volume. Airflow volume can be measured by mass or volume. Either way, it’s the measurement of how much air flows through a particular device per unit of time. It’s extremely important for the building of a data center because air will need to constantly be pushed through servers as efficiently as possible to keep them cool and working.

CFM Is the Most Common Unit of Measurement

There are several ways you may see this important metric measured, but it’s usually represented as a number of cubic feet per minute (CFM). If you’re using the metric system, then it’s cubic meter per hour (CMH). Should you need to convert from one version to the other, one CFM is equal to 1.7 CFM.

Every Setup Has Different Demands

The challenging thing with managing airflow volume is that much of it depends on the type of space you’re using for your data center, as well as your hardware and how it functions.

You may find the following helpful, though, as a frame of reference. Servers generally require inlet air with temperatures that are between 66 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit. For rack-mount servers, the volume of air necessary for this is roughly 160 CFM per kilowatt (kW). For blade servers, it’s 120 CFM per kW. In order to hit these numbers, the Computer Room Air Conditioner (CRAC) fan has to push enough cool air to meet the demands of the server racks.

That may not even seem so difficult, but it’s actually very challenging to calculate whether or not there is enough underfloor pressure and airflow from rack to rack in an environment that is completely evolving in terms of heat density.

The “Meat Locker” Effect Is Expensive

This changing environment can sometimes produce what’s known as the “Meat Locker” effect. To put it simply, heat can build up within your data center leaving areas that are actually too cold – a veritable meat locker. As a result, the necessary cooling capacity is increased upwards by two to three times the actual required amount – something that is extremely expensive and ineffective.

Distance Is Important Too

Another place where your data center’s airflow management could be improved is by thinking in terms of distance. Specifically, we’re talking about the underfloor distance that air in your datacenter must travel.

The longer it has to travel, the greater the potential that impedance is going to be amplified. So it’s worth thinking about your data center underfloor or server enclosure and how that might make it harder for your air to get where it needs to be to do its job.

As you can see, proper airflow volume in your datacenter is actually a very complicated subject you absolutely must think through before trying to implement a management strategy. Otherwise, best case scenario, you’re going to be wasting a lot of money on trying to cool your air. Worst case scenario, you could have servers crash because they’re not getting the cool air they need to work efficiently.

Categories: Data Center

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