Edge sites are popping up everywhere, challenging IT managers’ ability to match cooling requirements with business growth needs. Your IT team is turning to edge computing to support hybrid work and digital transformation growth by enabling new applications and faster processing speeds. In addition, edge computing enables your organization to process and store data close to customers and users, meeting data protection and privacy requirements across regions.

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Cooling is the secret of edge data center happiness (and reliability) – Alexas Fotos, Pixabay

You may be setting up edge sites on-the-fly to meet emerging customer or user demands. As a result, edge equipment may share space with other business operations and be placed in locations that are optimized for human comfort with standard air conditioning. For example, IT equipment may be sandwiched into smaller or branch office closets; placed in retail stock rooms; or deployed as self-contained mini or modular data centers on open floor space in education, government, or healthcare facilities.

In our new white paper, Small Cooling Systems: Assessing the Options for Edge Data Centers [PDF], we address the challenges and opportunities associated with edge cooling. The paper is designed to help you craft a strategy and plan for deploying the right cooling at diverse edge sites, protecting valuable IT equipment and ensuring the continuity of business operations.

Why comfort cooling is not a viable option for IT equipment

So, why isn’t comfort cooling enough? As any office worker knows, comfort cooling is highly variable with temperatures fluctuating across even a single large room. In addition, comfort cooling is designed for low-density heat loads, not the heat generated by high-density IT equipment environments.

A typical office heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system may be able to handle a heat load of 1-2 kilowatts (kW) for an entire room but is likely ill-equipped to handle the 3-4 kW heat load that a single rack of IT equipment produces. If that HVAC were to fail, the IT equipment would obviously be placed under even more stress, which could result in server downtime and data loss.

Office buildings also have humidity and dust issues. While office workers’ laptops and printers may be tough enough to withstand these challenges, sensitive servers and other IT equipment are not. High humidity can cause condensation, leading to short circuits, metal corrosion, and other issues that are detrimental to electronic equipment. Low humidity, on the other hand, can cause static discharge, which may also result in damage to electronics such as hard drives.

Similarly, dust will accumulate on surfaces that are not regularly cleaned, including inside critical equipment. Over time, this accumulation could impede proper functioning and lead to costly, unplanned downtime.

Assessing your cooling options for edge sites

So, it’s clear that comfort cooling is no match for IT equipment. Fortunately, there are other, better options that will provide enough variety to support diverse edge site needs.

Edge site cooling options include dedicated room cooling, which offers the ability to customize cooling to protect IT equipment. You can use room cooling to create server and network closets that have humidity control and particulate filtration, tightly managing the thermal conditions of the equipment. While effective, these types of setups will require planning and investment to create.

Spot cooling, which includes rack and row cooling, is more versatile. IT teams are increasingly racking IT equipment to protect it from dust, humidity, and water and deploy it wherever it’s needed.

Rack-based systems have self-contained units that disperse cool air to the IT load and circulate warm air back to the cooling unit for re-cooling. They’re available both as open rack cooling, which is installed in dedicated server rooms and network closets; and as enclosed rack cooling, which can be installed in office and industrial spaces. These units typically have a cooling capacity of about 3-4 kW per rack.

Row-based cooling accommodates more than one rack. These units are typically split systems that use an outdoor condenser unit and an indoor evaporating unit. Row-based cooling systems can be configured to cool multiple racks in a row or can be contained to circulate air just inside the racks. Installed close to IT equipment, row-based cooling is highly responsive to changing heat loads.

Rack-based cooling meets a variety of edge site requirements

Rack-based cooling will likely be a leading choice for edge sites, due to its versatility, agility, and on-site performance. You may not have the desire, time, or funds to invest in dedicated server rooms at branch or other office sites, but instead just need to stand up and protect a single rack of IT equipment as quickly as possible. For these purposes, rack-based cooling will do the job, matching cooling to the working heat loads; using a condensate pump to remove water; and providing monitoring and alarms, so that you can optimize on-site conditions and overall thermal management.

By optimizing cooling to IT requirements, you help protect equipment and business continuity. You can also minimize power consumption, reducing overall energy costs. And with solutions that can be easily integrated into racks and rows, you can deliver the speed and scalability your organization wants. That’s a winning proposition for sustained business growth.

Download the white paper to learn more about edge site cooling options.