The following article on cooling systems intended to handle data centres’ IT equipment at the edge of the network is authored by Jonathan Duncan, technical director, Africa at Vertiv. It is part two of a two-part article.

The growth of data centres has created special opportunities for the application of dry-type transformers.

The growth of data centres has created special opportunities for the application of dry-type transformers. Supplied by Trafo

… continued from part one.

Another issue with typical office buildings is humidity. With doors and potentially windows opening and closing all the time, humidity levels can change constantly, depending on conditions outside. This is not ideal for IT equipment. Similarly, dust does not facilitate the optimal functioning of IT equipment, which is why purpose-built data centres have air filtration systems that remove dust and other particulates from the air.

As well as office environments, many companies need to install edge data centres on factory floors, in manufacturing facilities, and in warehouses that have widely differing environmental characteristics. These are typically large spaces of 200 square metres and upwards.

Any warehouse faces challenges in maintaining a constant temperature, as they aren’t usually well-insulated or sealed. This can lead to excessive heat or cold inside the facility, as well as wide fluctuations in terms of seasonal temperatures. Again, humidity can become an issue, especially in facilities with no ambient air control system in place. Uncontrolled environments are also likely to be even dustier than offices, and less likely to have a particulate filtration system in place. Dust combined with high humidity can be particularly harmful to IT equipment.

What are the cooling options?

Theoretically, the same cooling systems that apply in an office environment can also be used in uncontrolled locations, but most customers favour an approach that involves a sealed rack or row, which means dedicated rack- or row-based cooling.

The reason is simple: these self-contained systems essentially seal off the IT equipment from the outside air, thus protecting it from dust and humidity, while enabling the company to tightly control the temperature of the racks.

The key is to look for a system with a high Ingress Protection (IP) rating as defined in the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 60529 specification, which covers mechanical and electrical enclosures intended to protect against intrusion, dust and water.

An IP 54 rating, for example, means an enclosure offers strong protection against dirt, dust, oil and splashing water – all enemies of IT equipment. With such an enclosure, the IT equipment is isolated from the environment in which it’s installed.

Combined with a rack- or row-based cooling system, companies can tightly control the temperature for IT equipment while also protecting it from its potentially harsh surroundings. Such a setup can also be highly efficient since IT equipment can withstand far higher temperatures than is comfortable for humans.

Operating the IT cooling system at higher allowable temperature envelopes would save significant sums on cooling costs versus using temperatures closer to the comfort levels set for humans.

As companies continue on their digital transformation journeys, they will be producing more data, which in turn will demand more edge data centres for processing. These facilities will need to be in close proximity to the data origination source, be it an office facility, warehouse, or manufacturing floor. Companies therefore also need racking and cooling strategies that can cover edge data centres located anywhere.

Source: Vertiv