How Does Data Center Cooling Work?

data cooling center

Data centers are becoming a major trend across the US. They’re becoming essential aspects of business-critical infrastructure that protect their data. It is vital, therefore, that they are reliable. 

Like all other computer equipment, data servers generate a lot of heat. Electrons buzzing around inside microprocessors are not 100% efficient and lose some of their energy to the surrounding environment over time. 

In theory, it is possible to passively cool data centers, but in practice, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. It would mean massively underclocking chips, denying them the potential to reach their optimal performance levels. Thus, in almost every setting, active cooling is essential.

But how does data center cooling work? And why is it so key for your business?

The Basics of Data Center Cooling 

In the past, organizations would cool their data centers using slightly modified air conditioning systems and thermal insulation. Servers would sit atop a raised floor and then pumps would circulate cooled air towards intake fans on the chassis. 

Each data center had a computer room air handler or a computer room air conditioner. These would pump cold air through slitted tiles towards server air intakes. It would then pass over components inside the system, such as the CPU, RAM, HDDs, and SSDs, before being exhausted out of the other side. The air conditioning or circulation unit would then collect the warm air, recycle it and then begin the whole process anew. 

While this was an acceptable form of data center cooling for low-density applications, it wasn’t sufficient for many of the high-end, larger installments entering the market. Adding cool air to one part of the room and then relying on simple diffusion to transport it over components wasn’t always sufficient to ensure adequate cooling. 

Modern facilities, therefore, make heavy use of hot and cold aisle containment strategies. These feed cold air from the air conditioning/circulation unit directly to servers’ intake fans, and then collect warm air from the exhaust in a closed-loop, preventing it from mixing in the wider environment. 

This strategy is more efficient because all cooling action reaches the server components themselves, instead of the surrounding plant, equipment, and building materials. 

Server cooling companies continue to experiment with additional cooling technologies, depending on the application. Liquid cooling, for instance, offers greater cooling performance for high-end systems or over-clocked components. Direct-to-chip methods pipe cooled water (or coolant fluid) to metal plates on the surface of processors to extract excess heat and transport it back to the chiller. 

Datacenter cooling is also finding solutions in software. Artificial intelligence algorithms are now able to selectively shut off parts of processors not required by specific workloads in real-time, leading to considerable savings. 

How Cool Should Data Centers Be?

Interestingly, the range of ideal temperatures for data centers is quite large. Recommended heat levels vary between 65 and 80 F. And humidity can range anywhere from 20 to 80 percent. 

However, these temperatures refer to the air reaching the server inlets, not the rest of the room. Usually, organizations keep their server rooms much cooler than this, usually below 70 F. 

Why Is Data Cooling Important for My Business?

There are many benefits to data cooling. Keeping your servers at an optimal temperature decreases downtime, maintains efficient airflow, reduces how much energy you use and pay for, and extends the life of your servers. 

That said, not many businesses have the capacity to do it on their own. Data cooling centers are third-party buildings that host your data to protect it physically and digitally. Part of that protection is regulating the temperature of their equipment and facility to ensure no overheating (or overcooling) occurs. 

Keeping your data stored at the right temperature may seem like a negligible thing to spend time and energy focusing on. But in reality, overheating or overcooling can have a huge impact on your critical information, causing expensive data loss. It’s wise to invest in data cooling to protect your business in the long run.