In this paper we report on a field investigation into airflow management challenges in high density data centers. This field investigation has also served to validate laboratory investigations into high density air cooling issues. In data centers with significant power consumption, and consequently high cooling loads per rack, high volumes of room airflow are required to meet server cooling airflow requirements. These volumes of air can be difficult to deliver in raised floor hot aisle / cold aisle layouts. The velocity of the airflow is such that it creates a negative pressure near the bottom of the rack. This negative pressure entrains air from under and behind the rack, causing recirculation and warmer air being provided to the servers at the base of the rack. This can cause operational problems and server performance impacts. This phenomenon has been demonstrated in previous papers reporting on test data using particle imaging velocimetry (PIV) techniques. The current work validates those studies by looking at airflow, infrared thermography, and actual IT performance while the under rack recirculation flows are occurring. Additionally, we demonstrate significant improvement by employing rigorous airflow management practices. We also discuss the limitations of current CFD modeling, the majority of which does not have sufficient grid-wise resolution to capture the problem. Further we discuss typical operational conditions that have suppressed the problem (or perhaps the awareness of) to date. Finally, the paper recommends best practices to mitigate the problem in high density data centers.

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