How to Prevent Your Network Switch from Overheating

Hot air rises. When air heats up, it expands and becomes less dense, floating on top of the colder, denser air below. It’s a basic fact of science that explains why hot air balloons can lift high into the sky and why the upper floors of a home tend to be hotter than the lower floors.

It’s also bad news for network switches. In many data centers, network switches are installed in the top level of a rack or cabinet, with servers below them. Servers generate a lot of heat, which rises to the top of the rack. Network switches take the brunt of that hot air, which explains why they often overheat and fail.

An overheating network switch is even more common for those installed in the back of the rack. Their location in the rack puts them at greater risk. It can be convenient to place switches in the back for easy access to cables, but the switches receive the full force of the hot exhaust air coming out of the servers.

In-rack cooling can minimize the risk that network switches will overheat. It provides localized, focused cooling that supports all of the equipment within the rack or cabinet.

Why Network Switches Need Proper Cooling

Switches are the workhorses of the data center, routing data traffic and allowing systems and users to connect to the network. When a network switch overheats and fails, it brings down network services for multiple systems. This could result in a costly outage and affect the performance and uptime of the entire data center.

Optimal Network Switch Operating Temperature

Network switches are pretty tolerant of heat, with a temperature range of up to 113°F (45°C) for enterprise-class products. As operating temperatures approach the upper limits of that range, however, switches can slow down and start dropping packets. This can cause jitter and latency that degrades the performance of applications.

Industrial-grade switches that tolerate temperatures up to 185°F (85°C) can be a good choice for harsh environments. However, in the typical data center, it makes more sense to supply adequate cooling for existing switches.

Network Switch Cooling Strategies

There are a few different network switch cooling strategies businesses can employ, each with unique considerations. Many data centers rely on computer room air conditioning (CRAC) units to cool the entire facility. This approach doesn’t account for variations in the heat generated by equipment, creating the risk of hotspots.

To get chilled air to network switches, administrators sometimes remove the blanking panels installed in racks and cabinets as part of aisle containment strategies. Fans can also be installed inside cabinets to improve air circulation and direct chilled air toward network switches. However, both of these approaches allow hot and cold air to mix inside the cabinet, reducing overall cooling efficiency.

In-rack cooling systems are a far better option for network switch cooling. A dedicated rack-mount cooling unit is integrated with the cabinet, delivering chilled air directly to the equipment and removing hot exhaust air through its heat exchanger. The entire rack can be maintained at the optimal temperature for all of the equipment.

Benefits of the Enconnex EdgeRack

Enconnex offers in-rack cooling systems with up to 5kW of cooling capacity. Our in-rack cooling systems are incorporated in our EdgeRack micro data center server cabinets, which provide an ideal environment for equipment regardless of location. Use the EdgeRack cabinets in the data center where hotspots are a problem or in network closets and remote locations that lack proper cooling systems.

With EdgeRack, you can rest assured that your network switches will not overheat. Give our cooling specialists a call or contact us online to discuss your specific requirements.

Posted by Jerod Green on September 30, 2021

Jerod has been in the data center industry for 10 years and has a passion for manufacturing fiber-optic and copper cabling solutions. As Director of Sales for Enconnex, he helps customers select the right solutions and is involved in the design and installation of enterprise-class network infrastructure.

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