With the cost of power increasing and the electrical requirements of the modern data center skyrocketing, data center designers are focused on ways to reduce cost by reducing not only the power required to run the servers in the data center, but the cost of removing the heat generated by those servers. In this article, I'll be talking about going back to the past for answers to these needs.
Before the common availability of electricity, designers of large buildings had to use ingenuity to provide light and ventilation to their buildings. In the massive textile mills of the 1800s, this was done with clerestory or eyebrow monitors. A clerestory monitor is a raise section of flat roof that contains windows around the side that can be opened. An eyebrow monitor is a raised section in a pitched roof that contains windows that normally much smaller than a clerestory monitor.
In operation, the clerestory monitor provides large amounts of natural light, and an efficient path for outside air to flow through the open windows, unlike a simple skylight that allows light in but very little airflow. The eyebrow monitor operates in much the same way, just on a smaller scale.
In use in the data center, cooler exterior air is brought in at ground level vents for the intakes of the servers, then vented up vertically. Venting the exhaust air from the server cabinets is the only step of the process that requires assistance, only to be sure that the hot exhaust air doesn't remix with the cooler intake air. Once away from the equipment, the hot air will continue to rise by simple convection until it's removed by the cross flow of air through the clerestory monitor. Note that the air flowing across the clerestory monitor doesn't have to be cold or even cool, it simply has to be moving.The air flow through the clerestory monitor and the operation of the exhaust vent fans from the equipment combine to create a vacuum that will help to draw in the ground level intake vents.
So why not just use ground level venting? Because, the clerestory monitor will separate the cooler intake air from the hot exhaust air. Venting directly across the data center will cause turbulence, recirculating of hot air, and hot spots.
It's easy to see that this system is the ultimate in energy efficiency, requiring only simple exhaust fans to insure that the intake and exhaust air from the servers doesn't mix. It's also very easy to regulate for different outside air conditions by simply opening or closing windows in the clerestory monitor. It shouldn't even be necessary to adjust the ground level intake vents at all!
How can we make the most efficient use of this type of cooling? First of all, make sure that the clerestory monitor and the intake vents are adequately sized for the space they will be venting. Second, make sure the clerestory monitor is oriented with the long side toward the prevailing winds for the area to provide maximum flow. Third, avoid using this type of cooling in areas with little or no natural airflow or areas with extremely high ambient temperatures.
Reducing energy consumption in the data center is as looking to the past, before we learned to take modern marvels such as air conditioning for granted.
Data Center, Web Hosting, Remote Backup, and Internet Engineering
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