Critical Data Centre Cooling: The Increasing Demand For Energy Efficiency In The Pursuit Of Business Continuity.

We live in the age of the technological revolution. With endless streams of data and information available at the touch of a button or the click of a mouse, businesses are now able to communicate internationally in an instant, vastly expanding the potential for worldwide business growth and commerce. However, all this data must be stored somewhere. The data centre market is rapidly expanding and inevitably, power consumption follows in its wake. Therefore, with a clear and defined requirement for data centre environments within the UK and indeed internationally, how can facilities managers easily reduce costs on site by maximising efficiency?

One of the most critical facets of any successful organisation is business continuity. This is the process by which an enterprise ensures that it remains available to customers, suppliers, regulators and other entities at all times; failure to do so could significantly impair trading, costing thousands, if not millions, in the process. With an increasing dependence upon IT infrastructure for international trading, data centres set out to provide a highly secure environment by delivering an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system within an adequately cooled environment. This minimises the risk of server downtime, thus maximising business continuity.

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Image: Big Data by Dvanzuijlekom

According to the DatacenterDynamics 2012 Global Census, data centres have increased their power usage by 63 per cent between 2011 and 2012. Due in part to a significant rise in global data centre uptake in the developing world and a rise in demand for services such as cloud computing and online applications like Google, Facebook, Twitter and more, investment in global data centres has grown by 22 per cent internationally; a trend which is mirrored in the UK. This rise in the number of data centres has sparked pressure from environmental groups and facilities managers alike to reduce power consumption at critical data sites. With the UK consuming 2.85GW of power in its data centres per year, five per cent of worldwide data centre power, it is clear that measures must be taken where possible to slow this ever increasing figure.

Taking this into account, where can the majority of this usage can be attributed? The answer? Cooling.

Although data centres are now able run at higher temperatures than they once did, electronic equipment still performs better in a cool environment. As a consequence, in order to offset the heat created by server equipment, sophisticated cooling is required. This is not a cheap process and is a cost which takes up a large percentage of a data centre’s annual budget, particularly during periods of raised ambient temperatures in the summer. This increased requirement places increased strain upon chillers, condensers, air handling units and cooling towers, increasing the risk of breakdown and therefore, costly downtime.

To put this into context, a chiller for example is an extremely power-hungry piece of equipment at the best of times. If little consideration or allowance has been made for seasonal fouling as a result of pollen and other airborne matter, then an increased strain is placed upon the unit, caused by the restriction in airflow. This not only greatly increases the energy consumption of the unit as it strives to draw the required airflow, but it significantly increases the likelihood of a unit breakdown.

Due to the nature of the data centre environment, minimising the risk of break-down therefore becomes a priority, with energy efficiency and environmental impact falling into a close second place. What if there was a simple method of benefitting cooling equipment with a simple retro-fit solution? Well, there is.

An air intake screen is a heavy duty air filter constructed using a vinyl coated mesh over a polyester fibre core. With a lifespan of up to 15 years, air intake screens were designed to be highly resistant to environmental degradation and UV rays, making it perfect for external applications like air handling unit intakes, chillers, condensers, and cooling towers. Originally introduced to the UK by ECEX, air intake screens were designed specifically for commercial heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems so as to have minimal impact upon airflow, whilst delivering maximum filtration performance for general airborne matter. The principle is simple: Prevent airborne debris from entering the air intake system and keep it in a more manageable position to enable efficient removal by on site engineers.

All air intake screens are made-to-measure and can be fitted using self-tapping screws with quick-release fasteners so they can be easily removed for cleaning or access to internal components. An air intake screen can also be cleaned in situ using a soft brush, hose or vacuum cleaner, significantly reducing maintenance time.

By removing airborne debris from the process, any obstacles which prevent the unit from delivering its requisite airflow are also removed. This allows the unit to work at its maximum design efficiency, reducing energy consumption through the decreased working duty. More importantly, by minimising the strain placed upon cooling equipment on site, the likelihood of plant breakdown is lessened, increasing its reliability.

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Air intake screens on Geoclima photo – Copyright ECEX 2013

In summary, business continuity is a vital facet of any business and, as a data centre site, it is imperative that this is deliverable at all times. By taking simple steps to protect your equipment, you can not only reduce maintenance time and energy consumption, but ensure that you are able to deliver to your clients.

Daniel Betts is an air intake screen surveyor for ECEX, a specialist engineering contractor based in Berkshire, UK. ECEX introduced air intake screens to the UK as the sole distributor of the USA based product manufacturer, Air Solution Company. For more information, please visit www.airintakescreens.co.uk or www.airsolutioncompany.com