How Are Data Centers Cooled? A Look at 21st-Century Approaches

Cooling is one of the most critical aspects of data center design. Without effective heat dissipation, IT equipment will perform poorly and could even fail.

Traditionally, data center cooling focused on pumping enough air conditioning into the environment to maintain a chilly 72 degrees. There are two problems with that approach today. Rising energy costs and a focus on green initiatives are driving organizations to explore more efficient cooling options. At the same time, data center densities have increased, making it more challenging to sustain proper temperatures and ensure there are no hotspots in the environment.

There are two primary elements to data center cooling: infrastructure design and cooling systems. Each has an important role to play in developing a cost-efficient cooling strategy.

Data Center Cooling Design (Infrastructure)

The layout of the data center and the infrastructure components within it have a significant impact on cooling efficiency. Ideal data center cooling design will ensure adequate airflow, dissipate heat effectively and focus chilled air on critical IT equipment.

Aisle Containment

Best practices call for the arrangement of racks and cabinets in rows, with alternating hot aisles and cold aisles. Aisle containment systems maximize the value of that layout and are essential components for maintaining an effective data center cooling infrastructure.

  • Hot-aisle containment encloses the hot aisle, captures hot exhaust air, and ducts it outside the data center or directly into the air conditioning return. It is used to increase the efficiency of traditional computer room air conditioning (CRAC) units.
  • Cold-aisle containment encloses the cold aisle and circulates chilled air so that it can effectively reach IT equipment. It is used with raised floor cooling or rooftop chillers with appropriate ductwork.


The right cabinets can help ensure cooling efficiency. For example, perforated doors allow chilled air to enter the cabinet while still providing security. Seals and blanking panels help minimize air mixing within the cabinet.

Cable Management

What does cable management have to do with cooling? Plenty. Poorly managed cabling can block airflow in either the front or back of the cabinet. Cable management and structured cabling systems help ensure that chilled air reaches equipment and exhaust air is properly released out the back.

Data Center Cooling Systems

CRAC units and cooling systems are still widely used in data centers around the world. However, data center managers have other options to consider when designing new spaces or retrofitting legacy environments.

Row-Based Cooling Systems

As the name implies, row-based cooling systems (also known as “in-row cooling systems”) sit within the row of racks and cabinets to supply chilled air to nearby equipment. Used in conjunction with aisle containment systems or modular data center units, in-row cooling shortens the distance chilled air must travel and provides for greater efficiency.

In-Rack Cooling Systems

In-rack cooling systems are mounted within a cabinet. Chilled air has no option but to flow into the intake of the IT equipment, and exhaust air is captured at its hottest point. Because capacity is matched to equipment needs, electricity usage is generally lower compared to other cooling systems.

Data Center Water Cooling Systems

Water has about four times the thermal capacity of air, so chilled water cooling systems tend to be more efficient than refrigerant-based systems. Data centers in colder climates can take advantage of free cooling — using outside air to chill water for liquid cooling systems.

Rely on Enconnex for Your Data Center Cooling Needs

The experts at Enconnex understand the importance of proper data center cooling. Our racks and cabinets, aisle containment systems, in-row and in-rack cooling, and cable management solutions are designed with the highest levels of quality and value. Our experts can help you choose the right solutions to maximize effectiveness and cost-efficiency — no matter how you cool your data center. Contact the data center cooling experts at Enconnex today.

Posted by Frank Hauser on November 23, 2021

Frank Hauser has been in the IT and data center business for more than 25 years. He started his career at Nixdorf Computer in Germany as a product specialist for Unix mainframes and held various positions with U.S.-based companies in the IT and telecommunications business. As a Sales Director at Enconnex, he works on data center opportunities across Europe together with system integrators and channel partners to develop the right solution for the customers to improve efficiency and reliability in their environments.

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