How to Ensure Effective Airflow Management in Data Center Server Racks

Posted by Enconnex Team on March 8, 2021

| Categories: IT Infrastructure

Data centers must be properly cooled to prevent IT equipment failures and shortened lifespans. The damage caused by heat doesn’t always manifest itself immediately. Equipment can crash intermittently over a period of weeks or even months, causing multiple episodes of downtime.

It’s not enough to cool the data center facility. Individual server cabinets need airflow management to ensure that chilled air reaches the equipment and the heat is effectively dissipated.

A primary objective of airflow management is to prevent hot exhaust air from mixing with chilled intake air. Air mixing can raise air temperature significantly, reducing the effectiveness of cooling systems and increasing costs. It can also create “hot spots” that damage equipment.

In the data center, aisle containment is used to minimize air mixing. Rows of server racks and cabinets are arranged with their fronts facing one another, and the “cold aisle” is enclosed to concentrate chilled air. The “hot aisle” can also be enclosed, ensuring that exhaust air is removed from the environment.

Similar principles apply at the server rack and cabinet level. Data center server cabinets must be sealed to ensure that chilled air doesn’t escape and exhaust air doesn’t enter the enclosure.


The Importance of Proper Airflow at the Server Rack Level

Modern IT equipment generates a significant amount of heat that can build up quickly in a confined space. Today’s servers, in particular, are more compact and have powerful CPUs that consume a lot of power. The power is dissipated as heat, which can strain a data center’s cooling capacity.

Data centers are equipped with high-capacity air conditioning systems to ensure an adequate supply of chilled air. However, it’s critical to ensure that individual server racks and cabinets have good air distribution to keep the inside of the enclosure cool. If data center server cabinets have proper ventilation, it may be possible to raise the overall temperature in the room.


Sealing Data Center Server Cabinets

Airflow management best practices dictate that any open gaps in data center server cabinets be sealed. Two techniques are used:

Installing blanking panels

Unused rack units within a server cabinet should be closed off with blanking panels. A blanking panel is simply a piece of metal or plastic that covers any open bay where IT equipment is not installed. If blanking panels are not used, there may be “dead spots” within the server cabinet, chilled and exhaust air mixing, or even reversal of airflow. 

Installing blanking panels isn’t enough—they must be properly sealed. Some panels leave up to a 1/8” gap, which can add up to a lot of air leakage in the server cabinet.

Sealing open space between sides and rails

Many server cabinets have a 1.5” to 2” open space between the side panels and the rails. Given that the height of a rack unit (U) is 1.75”, a 1.5” gap equates to 5.25” square inches of open space per U (1.5 x 1.75 x 2 sides). If you have a 42U rack, you wind up with 220.5 square inches of open area. That’s equivalent to more than six missing blanking panels.

Kits are available to seal off this space, but, again, they must be installed correctly with no gaps. IT teams in high-density data centers dedicate significant time and resources to retrofitting server cabinets.


Enconnex DC Series Server Cabinets

With the DC Series server cabinets from Enconnex, you don’t have to go through this process. The space between the rails and side panels has already been sealed. 

The DC Series server cabinets incorporate many other features that typically require customization or upgrade. You get a server cabinet that’s simple to install yet cheaper than leading competitors and with shorter lead times than custom server cabinets. Give us a call to learn more.


Posted by Enconnex Team on March 8, 2021

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