Are raised floors going the way of the Dodo? It just might happen. Data center technologies are continuing to evolve, and the traditional benefits of raised floors are quickly being overshadowed by newer and more efficient cooling techniques.
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Sure, raised floors have been around for a long time – an elevated platform creates an enclosed plenum, providing important space for electrical and IT infrastructure, along with mechanical support for resources like chilled water and CRAC ductwork that cools the systems sitting on the actual floor panels.
However, raised floors are far from perfect. The plenum space is filthy, and working within tight, confined spaces can be a serious challenge for the claustrophobic among us. Any structural problems like loose or poorly installed tiles can collapse and damage equipment and cause injury to personnel. But those nuisances pale when compared to cooling limitations.
“As IT execs cram denser, more power servers into a 42U space, it becomes increasingly difficult to cool systems with under-floor forced air, even with hot-aisle/cold-aisle design best practices,” said Matt Stansberry, director of content and publications at Uptime Institute. Stansberry explains that CRAC vendors have turned to more energy-efficient cooling such as in-row and in-rack techniques. Moving the cooling closer to the heat source is more effective than trying to cool the entire room and everything in it. Ultimately, the value of raised flooring is increasingly in question.
Seriously, Stansberry certainly isn’t alone. According to TechTarget’s 2010 Data Center Decisions survey, 59% of IT respondents use raised flooring in their current data center, but only 43% expect to use raised floors in a future data center. Slabbed floors are also falling into disuse, with 33% of respondents using slabbed floors in the current data center, but only 19% planning slabbed floors for a future data center. In fact 38% of IT professionals don’t know what kind of flooring they will use in the future.
“The best way for an owner/operator to make a decision is to bring the IT department into the design process to explain hardware deployment plans and roadmaps,” Stansberry said, but what is your opinion of raised floors and data center architectures overall? How do you select the flooring approach that works best for you? What are the tradeoffs and limitations that matter for you? S-