Data Centers and Refrigerators: What They Have in Common


cold aisle containment systems

Learning about data centers is like discovering how magicians do their tricks. All of the server racks and electronic cabinets and cables have a purpose and a function, it isn’t just a mystery anymore. Generally, when people say they store something on ‘the cloud’, they aren’t aware the cloud is just a big room with servers whizzing away. In fact, calling it a cloud at all isn’t exactly right. It’s more like a big refrigerator that anybody can put food inside.

Since there are so many benefits of cold aisle containment systems, about 80% of data centers use or plan on using hot or cold aisle containment systems to keep servers cool and reduce their energy consumption. But how exactly does a cold aisle system work?

Imagine for a second that a server is a jar of jam. Delicious, right? After a while of sitting out in the sun, the jar of jam will go bad. So whenever you make butter and jam on toast, you always put them back into the refrigerator. Likewise, if you leave a server stewing in its own heat, it will burn up and die. Then it won’t taste very good (ie. customers won’t be able to access their data). So, what’s the solution?

Cold aisle containment systems are almost literally refrigerators. A section of the data center is blocked off on all sides and on top, and inside of it are servers. The servers, when running, generate fantastic amounts of heat. If they get too hot, they break. Preventing this means cold air and lots of it. Sophisticated air conditioning systems pump hot air out of the room, and cold air back in. This regulates the temperature to a manageable level, and at a fraction of the energy costs of open-air methods of cooling.

Why does this matter?
Like a refrigerator, the stuff you put inside of a cold aisle system needs to stay cold. Unlike a refrigerator, the entire world is putting their data into these servers. ‘The cloud’ is the dominant way we do business online. Websites, e-commerce, online gaming, and many other online platforms run data through data centers and spit it back out to the consumer. If the servers overheat, they are thrown out. If they all overheated, we wouldn’t have access to our data. If data was the food stored in the world’s fridge, we would all starve.

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