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The past, present and future of top data center components

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Server room temperature, CRAC revamps on next facility blueprint

Source:  Patrick Finnegan/Flickr

Heat kills electronics. This was as true in the days of room-sized vacuum-tube mainframes as it is in modern data centers, yet much has changed about CRAC cooling and ideal server room temperature settings.

Computer room air conditioners (CRACs) are the bedrock of data center cooling, and the emphasis is shifting to operational efficiency and cost reduction in mechanical refrigeration. Enterprise-class CRAC cooling eats up a lot of space, money and electricity. Rather than cooling the whole facility, data centers can implement containment strategies, in particular hot aisle/cold aisle containment. More aggressive containment approaches replace a centralized CRAC with individual units on or at the end of each rack.

IT professionals can stop freezing their servers, too. Elevated server room temperature ranges are taking hold in data centers, with endorsements from The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers. Warmer IT equipment operating temperatures give cooling systems a break without compromising reliability.

Non-refrigeration cooling methodologies will augment or even replace traditional CRAC cooling. Heat exchangers based on ambient air and water are gaining traction, though many organizations must wait to deploy these capital-intensive options until they build new data centers. Immersion cooling -- which submerges the server into a cooled bath of non-corrosive, non-conductive fluid -- is a quiet alternative to CRAC compressors and fans, and the liquids enable hours of thermal ride-through during a disruption, as compared to just minutes when air cooling fails.

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