Data Center Efficiency: Using CFD to Optimize Cooling in Design and Operation

CFD Simulation

Energy is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) cost factors associated with data center operations, and represents the highest year over year growth rate. Unfortunately the efficient use of cooling can be like a game of Tetris. Even the smallest change on one end my have a serious impact on the other. But how can you ensure your cooling optimization efforts have no negative impact on your data center operation?

Are you confident the cooling optimization efforts have no negative impact on your data center operation and do not cause problems? Do you know if your current airflow is sufficient for the latest generation of server you plan to install? Can the cooling design for your facility still cope with today’s requirements of high-density deployments?

As today’s facilities have to be efficient and resilient it is a considerable advice to avoid trial and error strategies. State-of-the-art simulation techniques, such as Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), make the invisible visible, and validate the impact of IT infrastructure changes before putting them into action. CFD has become an essential tool for many companies as it allows users to quantify the airflow and temperature which would occur if physical alterations were made to the data center space.

Modern Simulation Software for Data Centers
Modern Simulation Software for Data Centers. Source: Future Facilities

Adapting new validation methods

CFD provides the capability to analyze every square inch of the data center, and determine the effectiveness of cooling within the racks and aisles. It also helps consider all the relevant aspects of cooling optimization with monitoring measures to validate simulation and planning results during operation.

The engineering simulation allows you to model any type of data center configuration whether it’s raised floor, slab, overhead cooling, in-row cooling, etc. Modern free-cooling technology can be incorporated such as direct and indirect evaporative cooling. You can even model complete control systems, hot-aisle or cold-aisle containment easily and compare each design variation. The simulation also allows you to analyze the impact of losing power to the entire facility (transient). Using CFD in the design phase is the best practice; today most sites are designed with the help of CFD tools in planning process by contractors. When the site is handed over to the user, CFD is usually no longer used on a regular basis – and that’s exactly where problems start to occur.

That’s why CFD is ideal to maintain to prevent changes for the worse. CFD can be employed when operators wish or need to check for a cooling perspective to make sure every piece of IT equipment is getting sufficient air flow at the right temperature in event of a failure. It has the capability to predict consequences of cooling failure.

Predict before you commit

CFD solves and even prevents many problems in data center design and operations. There are many benefits to CFD as there is no risk as changes are modeled and validated before action is taken. CFD integrates seamlessly into planning workflows and including it in operational procedures is nowadays a must for mature state-of-the-art data center management. Cooling optimization reduces energy costs, allows reclaiming of lost capacity, reduces downtime by preventing hotspots and optimizes space usage.

Modeling CFD allows effective communication between equipment suppliers, data center designers and operators. It is a risk-free way of experimenting within the data center to improve performance and capacity.

Though CFD modeling requires information about the size, content and layout of the data center to create a 3D model. If you are using a DCIM tool, the relevant data is already available at your fingertips and you just need to share it with the CFD tool.

An off-the-shelf adapter is available to connect FNT Command with Future Facilities 6SigmaDC and share all changes between these tools. Integrating CFD 6SigmaDC with FNT Command IMAC Processes is a simple, 3-step planning process:

  • Run a simulation on your current planning scenario to visualize airflow and temperature
  • Look at the effects of the change that has been proposed
  • Cooling limits per cabinet can be committed back to FNT Command to facilitate further planning using internal threshold checks on the updated values.

Oliver Lindner, Head of Business Line DCIM at FNT, recently wrote an Expert Paper on this topic and explains in detail how to achieve performance improvements both in design and operation phase. Download the expert paper titled Data Center Efficiency: Using CFD to Optimize Cooling in Design and Operation here.

If you want to discuss how CFD can improve your data center operation, contact us to arrange a demo.

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