Data Center Containment Myths


Debunking Myths of Containment In Data Center

The separation of cold supply air from hot exhaust air is known as data center containment. Containment allows for a consistent supply temperature to IT equipment’s intake and warmer air to be fed back into the cooling infrastructure. However, there are some myths surrounding data center containment that we will address in this article.

Benefits Of Data Center Containment

  • Reduced Energy Consumption
  • Increased Cooling Capacity
  • Stable Supply Temperature For IT Equipment
  • More Cooling Capacity Available For Additional IT Equipment
  • Increased Uptime
  • Extended Lifecycle Of IT Assets

The above is all true, but let’s take a look at some of the myths surrounding data center containment. But first, what is hot and cold aisle containment?

Hot Aisle And Cold Aisle Containment

Hot aisle containment and cold aisle containment are the two types of data center containment. In hot aisle containment, the hot exhaust air from IT equipment is contained in the aisle and returned to cooling equipment air intakes via plenum and ductwork. Cold aisle containment encloses the aisle that delivers cold supply air, allowing the rest of the data center to function as a hot-air return plenum. Each data center containment option has its own set of benefits and drawbacks.aisle containment in the data center
The Following Are Some Of The Benefits Of Hot Aisle Containment:
  • Improved energy efficiency, with energy savings of 40% or more when compared to an uncontained environment.
  • The data center’s open sections are cool, and they can be used for low-density racks or storage cabinets.
  • For technicians and engineers, the uncontained area provides a more comfortable working environment.
  • Because hot air is correctly recovered, accurate supply air distribution is less important.
  • It is possible to avoid the use of costly raised floor distribution systems and supply ducts.
The Following Are Some Of The Benefits Of Cold Aisle Containment:
  • Easy to implement without the need for additional fabrication to contain and return exhaust air such as a drop ceiling or air plenum.
  • Typically less expensive to install than hot aisle containment.
  • Easier to retrofit in existing data centers.
  • Doesn’t need to be on a raised floor, though it often is.

Containment’s acceptance as airflow management (AFM) technology has been influenced by a number of factors. The following are some of the key drivers:

  • The requirement to lower operating expenses by improving the efficiency of the cooling infrastructure.
  • The necessity to reduce the temperature of IT equipment’s intake air.
  • The need to increase the utilization of computer room space.

According to recent research by the Uptime Institute, 78% of big data center operators have already used containment. However, there are still a few common myths and half-truths concerning the benefits of containment.

Myths Of Containment In Data Center

1. Eliminates Bypass Airflow

This is largely false. Containment decreases bypass airflow only if it also reduces exhaust recirculation.
The amount of conditioned air that does not pass through IT equipment before returning to a cooling unit is lowered only if the following conditions are met:
  • The total amount of air produced by the cooling units is decreasing.
  • IT equipment necessitates a greater volume of air.

2. Containment ALONE Can Reduce Operating Costs

Containment reduces operating expenses slightly only if lower IT equipment intake temperatures result in lower IT cooling fan speeds.
Given that most IT intake temperatures fall below the 75°F to 80°F thresholds where IT equipment fan speeds rise, there is little to no cost gain from lowering intake temperatures. Containment does, however, provide conditions in which you can reduce cooling unit fan speeds, turn cooling units off, raise cooling unit set points, or increase chilled water set points to save money on operating costs. These savings can be significant, but you’ll need to make cooling infrastructure and control improvements after the containment system is installed.

3. Perforated-Tile Placement Doesn’t Matter Anymore

Perforated-Tile Placement Doesn’t Matter Anymore

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In chilly aisles, it is commonly assumed that two full rows of perforated tiles should be used. Containment keeps conditioned air from mingling with hot exhaust air before it enters IT equipment, but it doesn’t balance the total flow rate of conditioned air with the total flow rate required by IT equipment.
Even though a cold lane is totally contained, if more conditioned air enters the aisle than is required by IT equipment, the excess conditioned air will escape through minor holes or be pushed through the servers. Any extra conditioned air equates to wasted fan energy. When establishing containment, there are numerous options for balancing the volume of conditioned air—perforated tile numbers and types, damper placements, cooling unit fan speeds, number of cooling units running—but you must use at least one of these approaches to save money.

4. Containment Increases The Return Air Temperature To Cooling Units

This is incorrect since the amount of air traveling through the room, the IT heat load, and the cooling unit setpoint all influence the return air temperature.
Unless supply-side control is enabled, cooling units work to maintain the setpoint. Containment may result in parts of warmer air returning to the cooling unit, but the average temperature of all air returning to the unit will remain the same. Containment does, however, offer an environment in which you can raise both the return and supply-side control setpoints, increasing unit capacity and efficiency.

5. Containment Curtains Are Unnecessary

Containment curtain

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Observing drapes “flapping in the breeze” or blowing out is a common source of this belief. True, curtains or partial containment won’t keep conditioned air out as well as hard containment, but the issue isn’t with the curtains or the lack of full containment. The aisle is being supplied with too much-conditioned air, resulting in a lack of airflow balance.
No matter what anyone tells you, there is no “one-size-fits-all” method or magic solution when it comes to proper and effective AFM for your data center. AFM necessitates a measured, holistic, and verified strategy, whether it’s containment or any other approaches or products.

Data Center Containment and DCIM Software

All containment temperature sensors are monitored using Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software. Datacenter managers can use DCIM software to collect real-time data and automatically map it against ASHRAE or customized thermal envelopes to observe hot regions at a glance, determine when to increase or reduce temperature set points, and simplify airside economization management.
The following are some of the advantages of using data center confinement in conjunction with DCIM software:
  • Maintain proper inlet temperatures in all of your containment aisle’s server racks.
  • Increase temperature setpoints securely to save energy and promote green efforts.
  • Increase uptime by receiving real-time alerts when preset thresholds are exceeded.
  • Trend active power, energy costs, and environmental conditions quickly and easily.
  • Other facility equipment, such as CRACs, building meters, PDUs, and UPSs, should be monitored.
  • Produce energy cost reports for billing purposes.

AKCP Air Flow Monitoring Solutions

A data center’s reliability and safety come from a sound monitoring solution. As a vital part of data center management, monitoring should enable comprehensive tracking of environmental parameters in an IT environment.

The Cabinet Analysis Sensor (CAS) features a cabinet thermal map for detecting hot spots and a differential pressure sensor for analysis of airflow. Monitor up to 16 cabinets from a single IP address with the sensorProbeX+ base units

Differential Temperature (△T)

AKCP Cabinet Analysis Sensor


Two strings of 3x Temp and 1x Hum sensors make up the cabinet thermal maps. Keep an eye on the temperature in the front and back of the cabinet, as well as the top, middle, and bottom. In AKCPro Server cabinet rack map views, theT value, or front to back temperature differential, is generated and shown with animated arrows.

Differential Pressure (△D)

To prevent air from mingling from the hot and cold aisles, there should always be positive pressure at the entrance of the cabinet. Because air goes from high to low-pressure zones, it’s critical to ensure that the front of the cabinet has higher pressure and the back has lower pressure for efficient cooling.



Rack Maps and Containment Views

Dedicated rack maps displaying data gathered by Cabinet Analysis Sensor can be configured with an L-DCIM or PC with AKCPro Server installed to give a visual depiction of each rack in your data center. Containment views can be set to display a sectional view of your racks and containment aisles if you’re operating a hot/cold aisle containment.

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