How Can You Test and Optimize Data Center Cooling with CFD?

Data Center Cooling with CFD

When my father was a kid, the term “computer” started becoming popular. It was an invention not in the reach of common men. During my school life, there were computers in the laboratory to teach the basics – “What a tremendous change over a period of time!” thought people. It’s not so long now, my sister is now in school, and a common man uses 2 PCs/laptops per day – a work and a personal one. That seems to be a “revolution”.

There are technology developments happening throughout the world every single minute. One among the most recent trends being implemented by technology giants such as Google or Microsoft is cloud storage. I’m sure most of you are aware of the new revolution Industry 4.0 which includes Internet of Things and Cloud Computing. I strongly believe that the future generation will consider “Hard disks” or “Local storage” things of the past. Why? Because data centers are making their way into our world.

What is a Data Center?

“A data center is a facility that centralizes an organization’s IT operations and equipment, and where it stores, manages, and disseminates its data. Data centers house a network’s most critical systems and are vital to the continuity of daily operations.”, as its formal definition[1] says.

We shall now break this into simple words. Consider the example of you uploading an image onto Facebook when you first signed up. I believe most of you should be holding an account for close to 5 years now. One fine day you travel back your memories and see that everything stayed the same, as it was uploaded – the comments, likes, shares, etc. Why and how does Facebook store all these? Well, the first question can be better answered by our friend Mark Zuckerberg. How – that is the whole idea of data centers. The storage is done with multiple servers, usually owned and managed by a hosting company.

Similarly, Google, Microsoft, Dropbox and many other giants give you 10s and 100s of GB online storage where all these contents are being stored in data centers. Assume a crash in the data center – it might result in data loss or inaccessibility of data which might be worth in m(b)illions. This is why the design of data centers is a vital aspect and definitely worth spending time and money to get the best possible configuration. The design considerations include mechanical and electrical engineering infrastructure, technology infrastructure, site location, environmental control, power, fire protection, safety, energy efficient usage, greenhouse gas emissions, power, cooling, etc.

Data Center Cooling Simulation

Well, this post is hosted by SimScale – so how does SimScale come into play? Most of the above design conditions can be analyzed and controlled by performing some simple engineering simulations. Let us just compare 2 configurations of a data center cooling system.

Comparison configurations data center

The above two configurations have the same inlet and outlet conditions, except that the position of the inlets is different. This seems to be a minor change from a viewpoint, but actually, it might end up giving considerably different results. The following images are not just some colorful pictures, but they bring some physical relevance based on scientific principles.

In HVAC design problems, we try to minimize recirculation of fluid as much possible, which ensures proper ventilation in the space. The velocity plot comparison shows that recirculation is less in Configuration 2 compared to the other one. The temperature plot brings out the significance of reduced recirculation.

Velocity plot data center

Velocity plot

Temperature plot data center cooling

Temperature plot

From the temperature plot, it can be seen that the domain in Configuration 2 has a lower temperature value than the corresponding points in Configuration 1. It was also calculated that the average temperature at the center section in Configuration 1 is 303.9K, whereas the second case has 2.1 degrees lower average temperature, at 301.8K.

For data center cooling, it is very important to understand the flow. This learning helps us to create a channel for effectively removing the heat dissipated from server vents. The illustrations compare two basic configurations – in general, there might be so many other possibilities which might give even better results. Temperature distribution and pressure differences should be uniform to help in maintaining the conditions inside the room. In this context,

In this context, engineering simulation comes handy to assist engineers and designers in achieving the best possible design for data center cooling. Save money, save time, save energy!



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