How to Cool a Small Server Room, Network Closet or Edge Data Center

Much has been written about the cooling requirements of large-scale data centers. As data center density has increased, so has the heat load. Powerful computer room air conditioning (CRAC) systems must be supplemented with aisle containment, raised floor cooling, and other techniques to prevent damaging hotspots and maintain the proper environment for IT equipment.

However, many organizations don’t have large-scale data centers. A few racks or cabinets might be housed in a spare office or storeroom. A network closet might literally be a closet that’s less than 100 square feet. Warehouses, retail stores, and other remote sites might have a single IT cabinet.

Small server rooms, network closets, and individual cabinets require proper cooling, just like a data center. Heat can build up even more quickly in a confined space. Organizations should take steps to ensure adequate cooling of these environments to reduce the risk of downtime and equipment damage.

Recommended Temperature Range for Server Room Cooling

Servers and other IT equipment are generally delivered cool air from 70 degrees to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Leaning toward the higher setting can provide adequate heat dissipation while conserving power — assuming the space has sufficient airflow. Unfortunately, many small server rooms and IT closets were not designed to manage the heat loads produced by today’s IT equipment.

Server Room Cooling Best Practices

Here are some things IT managers can do to facilitate network closet and server room cooling:

  • Ensure that adequate cool air is supplied by the central air conditioning system. Measure the ambient air and compare it to the temperature setting. If there’s more than two degrees difference, the A/C system is not effectively dissipating heat.
  • Make sure that the fronts of server racks and cabinets are facing the cold air source. If there are more than a few racks, arrange them in a hot aisle / cold aisle configuration to minimize mixing of chilled intake air and hot exhaust air.
  • Use the server room for IT equipment only, and close it off from the rest of the facility if possible. Server rooms and network closets should not be used for storage or as extra IT workspace, which only adds to the heat load.

Benefits of In-Rack Cooling Systems

These steps won’t do much good if the server room isn’t getting adequate airflow in the first place. Furthermore, some office building managers turn off cooling systems at night, causing downtime for servers running 24x7. And when heating systems are turned on in winter, hot air will be blowing on IT equipment.

Ideally, server room and IT closet cooling should not depend upon office HVAC systems. Two alternatives are in-row cooling, which is designed to cool an aisle of server racks, and in-rack cooling, which cools individual racks and cabinets.

In-rack cooling systems work in a closed relationship with the rack, creating a microclimate for the equipment. Chilled air is delivered right to the equipment, and hot exhaust air is pulled right into the heat exchanger. Airflow paths are short, so there’s very little cooling loss, and minimal fan energy is required. The exhaust air is captured at its hottest point for maximum cooling efficiency.

In-Rack Cooling from Enconnex

The Enconnex EdgeRack micro data center is an enclosed server cabinet with an integrated rack-mount cooling unit. It is the ideal solution for small server rooms, network closets, and remote edge computing locations that lack the environmental controls needed to support IT systems. The self-contained cooling unit takes up just 11U of rack space yet has the capacity to cool up to 5kW of computing power.

The EdgeRack 5M Series is an all-in-one 42U-48U rack unit, and the EdgeRack 3P Series incorporates environmental sensors, remote monitoring, and intuitive controls. Enconnex EdgeRack solutions can help ensure effective cooling for your small server room, network closet, or edge data center. Contact us to learn more and get a quote.

Posted by Robert Faulkner on September 23, 2021

Robert Faulkner is the Vice President of Engineering and Operations at Enconnex. He comes from a strong background in product management with over 20 years in the IT industry. He currently holds an MSME and CDCD certification. He earned his MS degree in Mechanical Engineering at University of Nevada, Reno.

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