Keeping your cool

The Middle East is one of the more difficult countries to site a data centre, with issues such as extreme heat making building and maintaining a data centre particularly challenging.

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Keeping your cool Sundeep Raina, regional sales manager, Chatsworth Products International.
By  Georgina Enzer Published  February 4, 2013

Free air cooling
Free air cooling is a popular trend in the data centre cooling space; it works by bringing in cooler air from outside the data centre and using it as input air for devices.

According to Cannon Technologies, for this to work effectively you need a number of things:

A location where the outside air is below 24 degrees centigrade all year round that has wide open spaces to prevent air being blocked off by buildings and is free of dust and particulates. It must also be designed with a very large plenum, up to five metres, below the hardware to create a large chamber. This type of cooling may not be a possibility for the Middle East region, due to its high temperatures and dusty atmosphere.

 “As individual electronic components improve, and so does the data centre environment in general, there are greater heat tolerances which allow for this technology to be employed for longer periods of time. On the other hand, the IT industry is in a constant pursuit of greater density of electronics, this heats up servers exponentially and it’s impossible to say whether full-time free cooling using free-air cooling will ever be possible in areas like the Middle East,” Hopton explains.

There are several challenges to using free-to-air or evaporative cooling here in the Middle East. In the summer, the daytime outside temperature can be as high as 50°Cwhile in the winter, in the main cities, it rarely drops below 20°C. While night time temperatures are lower, the cost of deploying a solution that has a limited runtime would be justifying the CAPEX because the ROI would take a long time to be realised.

“It is not just the temperature that is a challenge here. The Middle East is a harsh environment in many ways. Sand scours surfaces, damaging metal, blocking filters and causes problems for both fans and electronics.

“The extreme heat can cause electronics and their casings to overheat and can even result in some data centre components melting. All of this combined makes free-to-air or evaporative cooling an extremely difficult technology to cost, deploy and maintain,” states Coughlan.

However, hope is not lost; Siemon’s Carrie Higby says that while the use of free air cooling can be difficult in high temperature and high humidity locations, there are times of the year when this technology could work in the Middle East region.

“It is important to note that equipment manufacturers are currently working to develop cooling equipment that operates at higher temperatures, which may result in solutions that meet in the middle of acceptable temperature ranges in the near future,” she says.

Gartner analyst Deshpande says that free air cooling could be used in the region in conjunction with other cooling technologies.

“Free air cooling is not a long term viable solution as the only option, particularly as high density server and storage begin to see increased adoption. If at all, water side economisers have higher applicability than direct cooling due to temperature issues. The temperature does not necessary prevent the adoption of this, but significantly reduces the efficiency of such a solution.

“However, free air cooling has been shown to deliver cost savings even in hot climates, by factoring in the reduced temperatures during certain months of the year and during the night,” he says.

Energy efficient options
Containment of hot and cold air via aisle containment or chimney solutions is the first step that any company should consider when implementing a cooling solution. After this they can start looking at the cooling system but in many environments this is not worth the cost— the return on investment is over many years and very hard to justify.

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