How Cooling Infrastructure Can Impact Data Center Expansion

Aug 29 2014

Last month our blog discussed how the exponential expansion of business and personal computing has resulted in the growth of the cloud and its growing acceptance in the business community. This month we will look at another result of this expansion – the need for more capacity in existing data centers.

The need for more capacity and more powerful servers with their high heat output inevitably leads to higher cooling loads. When planning a data center expansion facility managers and IT managers look for infrastructure changes that not only provide the much needed new capacity, but also offer business advantages such as:

  • Maintain data availability with no downtime
  • Install and commission on a fast-track schedule
  • Minimize disruption to staff and equipment
  • Improve efficiency to help manage Opex

Achieving those advantages can be helped by the selection of cooling system components and controls. With that in mind, let’s look at several cooling system choices that can help make a data center expansion go more smoothly and efficiently.

  • Cooling equipment optimized for installation in existing infrastructure. Custom cooling equipment has an advantage over commercial equipment because custom equipment can be specifically designed and manufactured to fit an existing space with challenging size and/or footprint, reducing extra costs and labor required on site. The ideal equipment for replacement purposes is designed to fit through a standard three-foot door.
  • Pre-engineered chiller plant systems. A pre-engineered chiller plant adds cooling capacity without using up valuable white space inside a data center. These systems combine a chiller, piping, wiring, controls and water treatment in one or more modules that minimize engineering time before installation and field labor at the job site.
  • Optimized replacement of legacy cooling systems. An alternative to unit replacement is an upgrade of components in the existing cooling equipment that can yield significant energy savings. For example, old and inefficient fans in a computer room air handler (CRAH) can be retrofitted with a direct drive plug fan array box to replace belt-driven blowers for energy savings typically of 20% or more. In addition, this efficiency improvement may qualify for utility rebates that offset the cost of the replacements. Another example is using a direct drop-in unit to replace a CRAH or computer room air conditioner (CRAC). Available with either downflow or upflow models, these units require no modification to existing infrastructure: piping, wiring, floor stand or floor tile configurations. With this strategy a fast ROI can be realized due to energy savings of up to 40% from the VFDs, advanced controls and airfoil fans in the replacement units.
  • Enabling application-specific HVAC solutions. What if you need to only expand a part of your data center? Maybe you’re opening up a branch data center which servers a very specific function. Instead of piggy-backing off of an existing system, data center expansion is being pushed forward with application-specific environmental controls to get the most out of energy saving strategies such as indirect or direct evaporative cooling and airside or waterside economizers.
  • Dynamic cooling optimization – see it before it happens. When managing an advanced data center platform, you need a powerful environmental monitoring and control platform that not only meets your operations needs today but one that is also capable of expanding with your data center. Dynamic cooling optimization programs with ActiveCFD™ capabilities offer what-if scenarios that let you see the probable results of making future changes to the data center infrastructure and how they impact efficiency.

The evolution of the data center will truly be ongoing. New types of systems will comprise modern technologies handling all sorts of workloads including cloud, virtualization, and IT consumerization applications. Through it all, effectively managing the cooling system in a data center will be critical to maintaining a healthy data center platform throughout the life cycle of the facility.

To learn more about cooling systems solutions for existing data centers, contact us at

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