CRAC Units: The Muscle Behind the Hot Aisle Containment System

CRAC Unit at Data102A vital cog in the cooling machinery of Data102 is the Computer Room Air Conditioning units (CRAC). The term “air conditioning” could conjure an image of a rattling box propping open a bedroom window, but CRAC units are large, expensive, sophisticated machines that keep perpetually hot areas cool—year round—with peak efficiency. Thanks to the economies of scale, Data102 is able to provide cool, climate controlled conditions for all of its servers at a much cheaper and more efficient rate than a single business could achieve.

The CRAC units are the linchpin of the hot aisle containment system. Hot air from the rear of the servers is contained in “hot aisles” and then cycled through the ceiling into the CRAC units, which cool the air using a water/glycol mixture similar to radiator fluid. The new cold air is recirculated under the raised floor in the datacenter and back to the front of the servers while the water/glycol mixture is piped up to the roof where a 150-ton dry cooler exhausts the captured heat. The end result is a datacenter operating at peak efficiency and temperature for all of its hosted servers.

This complex system requires over a dozen 10- and 20-ton CRAC units, all of which cost roughly $1000 per ton in addition to the installation, maintenance, and energy costs. Once installed, the machines are closely monitored by our professional datacenter technicians to ensure that the units are not only running, but also that they are running as energy efficient as possible.

All of this is in place to give your servers a temperature-controlled location in which to operate so that you don’t deal with service interruptions. It takes a lot of time, attention, and money for a single business to setup and maintain the proper conditions for a server. Simply throwing a server into a closet or next to an air conditioning unit will put you at risk of damaging your expensive equipment and potentially losing business. Those are not risks you want to take.

Colocating with Data102 will ensure that your servers run safely and efficiently. We have a number of controls in place to keep your hardware safe both internally and externally, and we offer services to make your web presence as hassle free as possible. But the cooling system and CRAC units are the heart of the infrastructure that makes us the best datacenter in southern Colorado.


Cool Running – Hot Aisle Containment at Data102

hot aisle curtains at data102The number one job of a data center is to keep the servers up and humming along, but this is not as easy as it may sound. Servers cannot simply be plugged in, stacked in a cabinet, and connected.

Not only must they be monitored, secured, and maintained, they must also be kept cool at all times, night and day, to ensure that the hardware stays intact and that service is not interrupted.

The infrastructure required to do this is costly and sophisticated. One of the main strategies used by Data102 to keep its servers cool and at peak efficiency is called hot aisle containment (HAC).

Like all electronics, bad things happen when servers get too hot, which can easily happen. Servers have fans similar to your home computer that take in cooler air from the front and blow hot air out the back. When servers are arranged haphazardly or in rows facing the same direction, they suck in hot air from the back of the other servers, meaning they can overheat very quickly.

This causes a number of problems:

  • Damaged CPUs and power supplies—even after just a few minutes of overheating
  • Potential data loss
  • System errors
  • Network interruption

All of these consequences in a data center can have a serious effect on a business’ productivity and profitability.

The Hot Aisle Containment Solution

The solution, then, is hot aisle containment. With hot aisle containment, servers are aligned in rows facing away from each other in alternating aisles so that they all blow hot air into the same space, which is contained by large plastic curtains. The hot air is then sucked out of these “hot aisles” and recycled through a large air conditioning unit called a CRAC (computer room air conditioning) that blows cold air up to the front of the servers from the floor. This cycle keeps the servers running at an ideal temperature (usually between 59 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit) at all times, regardless of weather or other factors.

Data102, the premier data center in Colorado Springs, uses hot aisle containment for a number of reasons:

  • To increase server longevity
  • Prevent data loss and connectivity issues
  • Maintain a cool datacenter overall
  • Improve the efficiency of the CRAC units
  • Create a chimney effect so that any excess hot air will rise out of the room.
  • Reduce energy costs

In order to ensure that our hot aisle containment system is doing the job, we monitor the temperature of each aisle and have checks in place to make sure that your server is always running at peak efficiency. These reports, along with our infrastructure experts, ensure that the servers keep humming, which means you stay connected with your customers.