With data center computers running 24x7x365, even a small increase in efficiency can really add up. Conceptually “hot aisle containment” is one of the simplest to envision and one of the hardest to implement since it normally involves a large amount of moving of the equipment racks. The concept here is to prevent the hot and cold air from mixing allowing the data center cooling devices to get better efficiency. The gains are large enough that power utilities in California are now doing rebates, with the University of California at San Diego partially funding their new data center with energy rebates.
This is an example of a product by American Power Conversion (APC) that has equipment racks backed up to each other to create an enclosed area that contains the hot air. This hot aisle is then evacuated by the data center cooling units allowing for efficiency increases worthy of rebates from the power companies. This example can be used to retrofit an existing data center that has a bit of spare room. However, there are some other solutions that give you dramatic increases without the need to lose quite so much space.
In this case short curtains are hung over the tops of the equipment racks to seal them off and longer curtains are hung at the ends of further contain the hot air. In addition, this solution is hung from the existing drop ceilings on fusable links that work just like the fire sprinklers in the ceiling. These links melt and drop the curtains so that in case of a fire the curtains won’t block the spray of water.
The School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) is currently retrofitting their data centers to take advantage of these energy saving methods and have even gone as far as implementing a new computer room airconditioning system that places the cold air right at the heat load (as opposed to pumping cold air into the raised floor). These two technologies combined together will allow SOEST to increase the number of computing clusters in the data centers without the need for massive increases in cooling water or power consumption.