With every new data centre announcement, and recently there have been quite a few, there will be the inevitable mention of free cooling. The term is not so much abused as merely poorly understood, as there are several types of free cooling for data centres, all with their own benefits and challenges.
Air-side free cooling involves outside air being brought into the data centre, or passed through heat exchangers, taking advantage of low ambient temperatures in temperate climates like our own.
Adiabatic cooling is a variation of air-side free cooling, and takes cool ambient air into a chamber and cools using the evaporative process.
Water-side free cooling uses cool ambient air to cool a liquid cooling medium, instead of using mechanical refrigeration.
All of these methods have their own advantages, but all have their drawbacks too.
Air-side free cooling has challenges due to the amount of filtering and humidity control necessary to pass external air into the data centre, or in the case of heat exchangers, ensuring that air quality is such that it prevents blockages and corrosion.
Adiabatic cooling again relies on air quality, but also has complex infrastructure requirements that can be expensive.
Water-side free cooling can be complex to manage, whether manually controlled or automated, and depends heavily on desired operating temperatures to determine the correct switching between free cooling and mechanical refrigeration.
Added to these considerations are those of retrofitting existing facilities and greenfield projects. It is generally held that air-side free cooling does not retrofit due to the potential disruption of putting in the ducts and openings required in an existing facility. While, water-side free cooling is considered for retrofit, integration with existing plant machinery, as well as protections from weather extremes, such as freezing, can add complexity and cost.
However, more than simply a buzzword, free cooling is likely to move up the agenda of CIOs, as data centre operations will be increasingly affected by standards and legislation.
The US energy standard for buildings except low-rise residential buildings, ASHRAE 90.1, in its 2010 revision deals with data centres specifically, and will push more data centre facilities to use free cooling methods.
To help organisations understand the concepts, methodologies and to discern the right options, TechFire, in association with Schneider Electric, will present the basics and show which methods will fit your data centre requirements and strategy. Clearly outlining how the Irish climate is well suited to free cooling, experts from Schneider Electric and Dell will talk from a design and end user perspective about how free cooling can benefit Irish organisations.
To register for this free event at the Gibson Hotel on Wednesday, September 16, 8-10am, go to TechFire.ie
TechFire: how free is free cooling?