How can cooling for IT be greener?

The last few years have seen a range of often contradictory trends in the way that we are approaching the needs of the environment, energy, habitat conservation, and economic growth.

One area where this is apparent is in the cooling of all sorts of IT infrastructure. In a standard data centre, cooling systems can consume as much as 40% of the total power used. As the use of IT systems increases at faster and faster rates this may mean that the power consumed will rocket. Newer data centres are carefully designed to minimise cooling requirements, – often by siting them in regions of the world where ambient air can be used to cool the equipment.

Where Cloud-based systems are concerned, this makes good sense. The centres are less harmful to the environment by consuming less power, and they are cheaper to run. However, how can smaller scale cooling requirements based locally or on the user’s own premises adapt to changing energy considerations? This is becoming more important as Edge computing and the internet of things (IoT) start to become more widely adopted. Methods that are used in data centres are not applicable in places where the equipment is housed in small, scattered locations. Or in buildings with physical or planning limitations on air conditioning installations.

Traditionally, the solution has been to build a ‘server room’, and then air conditioning systems to cool the whole room space. Server cabinets frequently have doors and side panels removed to aid airflow around the equipment. Then the room temperature is set lower than is comfortable for staff to work in, to try to increase cooling. The effectiveness of the cooling is patchy as there are hotspots in the room and inside the cabinets. While the cooling systems consume a high amount of energy keeping the whole room cold.

A solution can be to house the equipment in an enclosure with its own active cooling system fitted. The system only cools the equipment inside the enclosure it is fitted to and not the whole room. It switches on and off automatically according to the heat loads generated inside the enclosure. Thus minimising its energy consumption. Because the all equipment in the enclosure is maintained within a precise temperature range its speed and reliability are optimised. Failures due to overheating of components is then eliminated.