One of the more interesting challenges in IT involves fitting equipment into Data Centres. The more kit you put in, the more power you use and the more heat you have to remove. If you don’t get it right, at one end of the spectrum it is wasted power in over-cooling. The much more serious opposite end is where there is inadequate cooling, leading to hotspots, thermal runaway and expensive failure of equipment. If data is lost, this can sometimes result in the failure of the Company.
With the advent of high density hardware such as Blade Servers, the heat can now be crammed into much smaller spaces and a rack that previously consumed some 2kW could now potentially be twenty times that much. Airflow follows simple to understand rules that boil down to hot air rises and air takes the easiest route the same as a liquid but in a complex environment it can appear particularly non-intuitive
Fortunately, however, powerful tools are available to model Data Centres using a technique known as Computational Fluid Dynamics. Originally used as a method of pre-assessing air flow over an object in a wind tunnel, it has now developed to the level where for a chunk of Wonga, Businesses can get others to model their rooms as a virtual facility, or, for an even bigger chunk, buy the software and do it themselves. This isn’t the sort of Software you find on Warez sites though!
The market leader at present is a product known as 6Sigma, which is confusing as it is better known as a manufacturing term for an approach to quality control pioneered by Motorola. Through the magic of animated gifs, each of the pictures below will show with the airflow wobbling about, giving movement. Their latest release, version three, allows a virtual walk-through of the facility, as seen in the banner of their home page.
What they don’t tell you, however, is that once you create the model it takes a long time to do the calculations and resolve the images. Sounds a bit like second life…