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Cooling, Power Management and Density: 3 Keys to a Greener, More Efficient Data Centre

Data centres (DCs) today are faced with three major efficiency and environmental issues. To achieve optimal efficiency and sustainability, they need to efficiently cool the IT load, manage the use of power, and optimize use of available space....

March 1, 2011  

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Data centres (DCs) today are faced with three major efficiency and environmental issues. To achieve optimal efficiency and sustainability, they need to efficiently cool the IT load, manage the use of power, and optimize use of available space. The end goal is to increase bandwidth density and maximize processing capacity, while minimizing the data center’s footprint – both spatially and environmentally – to reduce operational costs.

The challenge is that these issues, although interrelated, often work against each other. For example, as you increase the IT load with high-density equipment, you increase your power and cooling requirements – and your energy costs. A better line of attack is to take a systems approach.

To do this, you need to review your DC in terms of performance and efficient operation and then create a balance between center’s power, cooling and density needs with the goal of achieving optimum energy efficiencies and application/systems performance – and maximum output of your IT investment. Let’s briefly examine how taking a systems approach to the triad of cooling, power management and density challenges can help to achieve the desired results.


Deployment of high-density IT equipment can push the average enclosure heat load into the 10-15Kw range, forcing a re-thinking of the traditional hot aisle/cold aisle concept.

Poor separation between the supply of cold air and return of hot air has caused many DCs to be oversupplied with cold air – sometimes more than twice what is really needed. Yet, despite this oversupply, most DCs still experience “hot spots.”

One viable solution for maximizing cooling efficiency is an adaptive heat containment and airflow management technology designed to eliminate cold air bypass to the cooling unit, and hot air recirculation to the cold aisle, by providing a high level of separation between supply air and return air.

This approach allows for full utilization of the existing cooling infrastructure, thereby eliminating the oversupply of cold air and its associated costs.

Better separation also provides the opportunity to raise supply air temperature which positively impacts cooling costs.

In addition, there are remote climate monitoring devices now on the market that can monitor and detect many environmental factors, including temperature, air flow, humidity, and air pollution. The peace of mind these devices can deliver make them well worth the investment.

Power Management.

Typically, DC power usage has been applied to overhead as a necessary operating expense, much like the cost of the space.

However, escalating power costs have changed that mindset dramatically. A key step in lowering energy usage is the ability to understand how power is allocated. By using power distribution units (PDUs) with remote monitoring capability on equipment racks and cabinets, you enable a real-time assessment either at the circuit-level, or even better, at the receptacle-level of power usage and provide the opportunity to quickly correct any undesirable environmental changes that could increase the power draw. Use of the innovative adaptive heat containment and airflow management technology cited above also reduces power usage by as much as 50%. These steps can make it possible to effectively measure, monitor and remediate environmental conditions in the DC to achieve an optimal power usage effectiveness (PUE) ratio.


To increase processing capability in the existing space, DCs can deploy components designed specifically for high-density installations. These include space-efficient, high-port-density patch panels, plug-and-play pre-terminated cabling systems, and other connectivity components designed to conserve space and increase density. Selection of copper and fiber cabling components offering higher bandwidth density, such as 10G copper and 40G+ fiber systems, maximize overall processing capacity while minimizing required space.

High-density modular rack and enclosure systems are now available that can deliver up to a 60% reduction in floor space requirements, while securely housing all required equipment and connectivity systems.

And, to simplify installation, maintenance and management and of the DC cabling infrastructure, a best-in-class cable management system is highly recommended.

When these three issues – cooling, power management, and density – are addressed simultaneously, the results can be measurable and quite significant. As in many other areas of data centre installation, operation and maintenance, taking a greener “total systems” approach pays dividends in terms lower energy consumption and costs, coupled with higher efficiency, performance, and ROI.

Denis Blouin is a mechanical engineer and Program Manager for Data Centres at Belden.