CFD benefits are real, tangible and validated, but data centers contemplating using CFD must move forward with caution. It must be understood that these benefits can only be gained with accurate analysis conducted in the proper context.
- As CFD analyses become more widespread, the cost of these analyses remains a concern to many data centers. CFD analysis does not provide any benefit if it is not accompanied by any physical or operational modifications to the data center. The use of CFD is only warranted if its return on investment (e.g., net savings through reductions in cooling costs) more than offsets the cost of CFD analysis and proposed modifications within one to two years. Managers should conduct a CFD analysis every 12 months or less to keep pace with frequent changes taking place in their data centers. Subsequent analyses should cost considerably less than the initial analysis by modifying the original model and generating savings on model-building labor costs.
- Data centers must realize that the accuracy of CFD prediction is paramount when undertaking any CFD analysis. CFD analysis that does not contain a sufficient number of simulations or variables can actually be more harmful than not conducting any CFD analysis. A limited number of simulations in an optimization study could lead to less than optimized layout or configuration, resulting in over-sizing the cooling equipment. An analysis that does not include all the major contributing variables could result in a wrong prediction that could lead to expensive and harmful modifications. For example, an inaccurate prediction could recommend the wrong containment strategy resulting in equipment starving for cold air, which has been shown to reduce the lifespan of equipment and jeopardize data center reliability.
The value of CFD analysis in helping data centers reduce cooling costs cannot be understated. Yet, CFD’s ability to increase data center IT capacity and prolong IT equipment lifespan through layout optimization is where CFD can make its biggest contribution to data centers in the future.
Gartner, Why CFD Analysis Is a Must for Modern Data Centers, 16 March 2011.Excerpt from The DCIM Advisory feature article by Kamran Fouladi and Soheil “Sam” Negahbani, Energex Technologies.