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Exploring The Basics of Data Center Aisle Containment: Doors, Panels, Curtains, & More
Aisle containment is a proven method of improving cooling efficiency in the data center. It builds upon the concept of “hot aisles,” where the rears of cabinets face each other, and “cold aisles,” where the fronts of cabinets face each other. That basic data center design helps to reduce the mixing of hot exhaust air with cool supply air.
Containment systems go a step further by enclosing either the hot aisle or the cold aisle. Various components can be used, including panels, curtains, doors, seals, and blanking panels. Let’s take a walk through an aisle containment system and explore the various elements.
Aisle Containment Basics
Aisle containment systems are designed to capture the air within a given aisle effectively. Chilled air within the cold aisle is circulated while exhaust air in the hot aisle is vented out. This allows IT managers to raise data center temperatures without harming equipment.
Both hot and cold-aisle containment systems come with their advantages and disadvantages. Historically, most data centers have used cold-aisle containment because it’s effective, less cumbersome to retrofit, and, therefore, also a little less expensive. On the other hand, research shows that hot-aisle containment saves more energy in the long run. For that reason, more and more large-scale data centers are adopting hot-aisle containment systems.
With cold-aisle containment, the cold air is supplied to the equipment from within the enclosure and the hot exhaust air is returned to the outside environment. Typically, cold-aisle containment systems require little to no custom ductwork because the hot exhaust air goes into the outside environment and away from the sensitive equipment. With hot-aisle containment, the cold air is directed from outside the containment into the enclosure. That hot exhaust air must be returned to air conditioning return vents and, therefore, typically requires custom ductwork to facilitate effective airflow. However, since the hot air is returned directly back into the air conditioning unit and not the outside environment, cooling is more energy efficient with hot-aisle containment than cold.
Aisle Containment Structure
The rows of racks and cabinets form the underlying structure for the aisle containment system. Various components are then added to create a physical barrier to minimize hot and cold air mixing.
Panels fitted into lightweight aluminum frames are often used to form the roofs of aisle containment systems. They may also be used to fill in spaces where a rack or cabinet is missing. The standard panel is 24” x 48” because most racks are the width of one floor tile (24”), and most aisles are the width of two tiles (48”).
Curtains made of flexible strips provide a cost-effective means of separating hot and cold aisles. The strips overlap to create an effective barrier. Some are fitted with weights to prevent the strips from separating.
Doors are installed at the ends of the aisles to seal off the system while enabling human access. Doors may be single or double-walled and may be hinged or sliding depending upon the available space in the data center. Vertical strip curtains may also be used for doors.
Various types of seals are used to prevent air leaks within the aisle containment system. Floor seal kits block airflow under cabinets, while door seal kits close the gap at the top of doors attached to taller cabinets. Seals are also used within cabinets to close the space between cabinet sides and rails.
Blanking panels aren’t technically part of the aisle containment system, although the term is sometimes used for panels that are installed where racks are missing. They are installed in spaces within a cabinet where there is no equipment to ensure that air flows properly in the right direction.
Aisle Containment Solutions from Enconnex
Enconnex offers a complete line of aisle containment components to meet every need and budget. Select from rack-based, standing, or hanging frames with a variety of panel options available to suit your data center conditions and your energy savings plan. We also offer translucent and opaque doors, fixed, drop away, and tilt-window ceilings, chimney systems for hot aisle containment, and much more.
Enconnex containment systems are all about customization. They’re built to your specs. You’ll work with an Enconnex engineer to build your ideal containment system. Containment frames, hot and cold aisle configuration, doors, roofs, panels, security, and accessories are all tailored to your needs. We keep components in stock in locations worldwide for fast delivery and competitive prices. Get in touch to start designing the perfect containment system for your business.
Posted by Dave Bercovich on November 17, 2021
Dave has 20 years of data center and IT infrastructure sales experience. He has represented manufacturing organizations such as Avaya, Server Technology, & The Siemon Company. As Sales Director with Enconnex, he builds relationships and grows the Enconnex business working with partners, and resellers.