A balanced view of raised floors in the data center

Posted by mstansberry | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 24-02-2011

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A couple weeks back, SearchDataCenter.com quoted Uptime Institute in a blog post about raised floors in the data center, but we thought the article was a bit one-sided. Here is the full response we sent to the editor.

More data center managers are looking at slab floor data center design for several reasons, but the primary one is rack density. As IT execs cram denser, more power servers into a 42U space, it becomes increasingly difficult to cool systems with under-floor forced air, even with hot-aisle/cold-aisle design best practices. The CRAC vendors have responded with in-row and in-rack cooling products that bring the cooling closer to the heat source, which can be more energy-efficient than moving cold air all around the data center. Also, raised floors can cause data center staff access headaches — the plenum can be a hassle to keep clean, and working under the tiles can be a chore. That said, there are just as many arguments for keeping a raised floor: design flexibility, for a backup cooling system in case the closely coupled high density systems fail, and for baseline humidity and temperature control. The best way for a owner/operator make a decision is to bring the IT department into the design process to explain hardware deployment plans and roadmaps.

Raised floor is cheap for the long term strategic flexibility it provides. The air flow benefits touted by cooling vendors for slab on grade largely revolve around proprietary cooling solutions. The vast majority of technically proficient end users are still installing raised floors.