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Hot Aisle and Cold Aisle Data Center Containment

Posted by QuoteColo on August 02, 2020 - Updated on December 13, 2022

Hot Aisle and Cold Aisle Data Center Containment

Many data centers today utilize hot aisle and cold aisle arrangements for the server racks they contain. When you are looking for a data center to house your server, you may see information on their site that talks about these arrangements. You might be wondering what these terms mean, how they work, and how important it might be when you are making your decision.

What is the Difference?

A hot aisle containment system will feature doors at the end of the hot aisle along with ducts and baffles that will help to move the hot air to the returns of the cooling units. The cold aisle containments also have doors at the ends of the aisles. In some cases, they will also have a roof or partition.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Cold Aisle Containment

Many companies like the idea of choosing cold aisle containment because it tends to be easier to implement. Since they will not need to add any ducts or other architecture to remove and return air, it is often cheaper. The only additions that will likely need to be made will be doors at the ends and some type of cap for the top of the system.

Because there will be fewer changes that need to be made to the space, it means that turning a room into a cold aisle containment tends to be faster, as well.

Of course, there are also some drawbacks associated with cold aisle containment. With cold aisle containment, it often means that the rest of the data center becomes a hot aisle because the temperatures will be increased. These spaces are also not typically as ergonomic or efficient. You will still likely need to have a raised floor because some of the air is moving through the raised floor and openings beneath the equipment. This is a waste of energy.

With these types of systems, you will need to make sure that there is a fire suppression system not only for the entire data center but an additional solution for the cold aisle containment. This is often an additional fire suppression system. If that’s the case, it can add to the overall cost of what many believed to be a cheaper solution.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Hot Aisle Containment

As mentioned, many people feel that the hot aisle containment system is the better option, as long as they have the means to create this type of room. The open area of the room will be a cold environment, and the leakage of air from beneath the raised floor is not wasted. Instead, it can simply go into the cold space room around the hot aisle.

Many believe that this type of system is more effective for cooling the servers and computers, as well. With a large supply of air and a quality exhaust system, it can work well in many different environments. Since there is no separate volume and there is no roof on these aisles, it also means that you will be able to use the fire suppression system that is used for the rest of the data center. This can provide some savings since you won’t need to add a separate system.

As with the cold aisle containments, there are some potential drawbacks to these types of systems, as well. You will need to have a drop ceiling in some cases, and you will need to make sure that there is a path for air to flow to the cooling units.

Because the temperatures are higher in these aisles, it does mean that it can create a work environment that is not comfortable for those who have to spend any amount of time in the aisle. Even if they don’t have to spend much time in the unit, it can be very warm, and a place that most techs won’t want to visit.

Fortunately, some companies are making servers that are serviceable through the front. This means that it will reduce, and possibly even eliminate, the amount of time that the tech has to spend inside of the hot aisle.

Of course, one of the major drawbacks is the cost. These are more expensive than the cold aisle containment even when you factor in the cost of an extra fire suppression system in the cold aisles.

Which is the Better Option?

It will often depend on the configuration of the room where the servers are stored. However, if the option is available, data centers consider hot aisle containment to be a better option because it can provide better thermal efficiency and other advantages, as you have seen above. However, some data center layouts will benefit from cold aisle containment.

Commercial data centers will choose the best option for their layout. If you have a computer room at your own facility, you will want to make sure that you think about your layout and choose the option that will work best for your needs.


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