Data Center Design Incorporates High Density Zones for Improved Efficiency

A number of data center facilities utilize high density computing equipment to support growing customer demands for more efficient, available services. However, these components require certain data center layouts for optimum functionality. Gartner data center research showed that as more organizations adopt high density equipment, more facilities will incorporate high density zones in their data center layouts.

According to Gartner, one of the fastest growing areas within the data center market is the high-density blade sector. This expansion creates the need for the implementation of high density zones, and 50 percent of all data centers will deploy the zones by 2015.

High density zones are an areas that requires more than 10 kilowatts per rack in a specific set of rows, as defined by Gartner. For this reason, any rack that is more than 50 percent full should be placed within a high density zone.

“A standard rack of industry-standard servers needs 30 square feet to be accommodated without supplemental cooling,” Gartner noted. “And a rack that is 60 percent filled could have a power draw as high as 12 kilowatts.”

Gartner pointed out that previous data center designs feature a uniform energy distribution model that delivers two kW to four kW per rack. However, the influx of high-density blades in many facilities renders this design insufficient for provisioning adequate resources to support this equipment. Therefore, high density zones are needed to supply the optimal balance of power and cooling to IT equipment such as servers, storage and network boxes.

Implementing high density zones within a facility’s data center design can provide the proper support and reduce operating costs, as cooling and power systems will not struggle to provide the adequate resources for high density equipment. Gartner research vice president Rakesh Kumar said the best way to manage varied life cycle changes of data center structures, electromechanical equipment and IT components is to utilize a high density zone strategy.

Schneider Electric also noted that high density zones can address issues including floor space consumption, wasteful rack arrangements, cabling costs, equipment maintenance, and electrical efficiency. In addition, when these zones are implemented with the data center layout of the facility, the system can help prevent delayed server development, unplanned downtime and loss of cooling redundancy.

Challenges of High Density Zones
While the technology has its benefits, Kumar noted that there are some obstacles that high density zone users must address, including how to plan for lifestyle changes in IT hardware, as well as the best ways to manage space and cooling. As conventional cooling arrangements can become ineffective above 15 kilowatts per rack, high density zones need supplementary cooling. Kumar suggested utilizing a chilled-water system, hot/cold aisle design or in-row/in-rack cooling. Furthermore, implementing a row-based cooling system and ensuring that racks and aisles are contained is more efficient than legacy arrangements.

Kumar pointed out that one of the most prevalent challenges facing any data center project is creating a balance between infrastructure arrangements and IT requirements. The building itself with most likely remain the same, however, operators will need to update and modify electromechanical components. This way, the IT systems are updated two to three times in a 15 year period.

“The core of the problem is that new generations of IT equipment will become increasingly complex (blade systems and the evolving fabric architectures are examples), resulting in ever-increasing energy requirements,” Gartner stated. “Therefore, one of the best ways to ‘future proof’ against these problems of change is to use high-density zones.”

Furthermore, when implementing these zones, Gartner advised planning for future IT capacity growth, which may include a 20 to 25 percent increase in raised floor space.

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