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Data Center Containment: Types, Benefits & Challenges

Over the past decade, data center containment has experienced a high rate of implementation by many data centers. It can greatly improve the predictability and efficiency of traditional data center cooling systems. This article will elaborate on what data center containment is, common types of it, and their benefits and challenges.

What Is Data Center Containment?

Data center containment is the separation of cold supply air from the hot exhaust air from IT equipment so as to reduce operating cost, optimize power usage effectiveness, and increase cooling capacity. Containment systems enable uniform and stable supply air temperature to the intake of IT equipment and a warmer, drier return air to cooling infrastructure.

Types of Data Center Containment

There are mainly two types of data center containment, hot aisle containment and cold aisle containment.

Hot aisle containment encloses warm exhaust air from IT equipment in data center racks and returns it back to cooling infrastructure. The air from the enclosed hot aisle is returned to cooling equipment via a ceiling plenum or duct work, and then the conditioned air enters the data center via raised floor, computer room air conditioning (CRAC) units, or duct work.

Hot aisle containment

Cold aisle containment encloses cold aisles where cold supply air is delivered to cool IT equipment. So the rest of the data center becomes a hot-air return plenum where the temperature can be high. Physical barriers such as solid metal panels, plastic curtains, or glass are used to allow for proper airflow through cold aisles.

Cold aisle containment

Hot Aisle vs. Cold Aisle

There are mixed views on whether it’s better to contain the hot aisle or the cold aisle. Both containment strategies have their own benefits as well as challenges.

Hot aisle containment benefits

  • The open areas of the data center are cool, so that visitors to the room will not think the IT equipment is not being cooled sufficiently. In addition, it allows for some low density areas to be un-contained if desired.
  • It is generally considered to be more effective. Any leakages that come from raised floor openings in the larger part of the room go into the cold space.
  • With hot aisle containment, low-density network racks and stand-alone equipment like storage cabinets can be situated outside the containment system, and they will not get too hot, because they are able to stay in the lower temperature open areas of the data center.
  • Hot aisle containment typically adjoins the ceiling where fire suppression is installed. With a well-designed space, it will not affect normal operation of a standard grid fire suppression system.

Hot aisle containment challenges

  • It is generally more expensive. A contained path is needed for air to flow from the hot aisle all the way to cooling units. Often a drop ceiling is used as return air plenum.
  • High temperatures in the hot aisle can be undesirable for data center technicians. When they need to access IT equipment and infrastructure, a contained hot aisle can be a very uncomfortable place to work. But this problem can be mitigated using temporary local cooling.

Cold aisle containment benefits

  • It is easy to implement without the need for additional architecture to contain and return exhaust air such as a drop ceiling or air plenum.
  • Cold aisle containment is less expensive to install as it only requires doors at ends of aisles and baffles or roof over the aisle.
  • Cold aisle containment is typically easier to retrofit in an existing data center. This is particularly true for data centers that have overhead obstructions such as existing duct work, lighting and power, and network distribution.

Cold aisle containment challenges

  • When utilizing a cold aisle system, the rest of the data center becomes hot, resulting in high return air temperatures. It also may create operational issues if any non-contained equipment such as low-density storage is installed in the general data center space.
  • The conditioned air that leaks from the openings under equipment like PDUs and raised floor tend to enter air paths that return to cooling units. This reduces the efficiency of the system.
  • In many cases, cold aisles have intermediate ceilings over the aisle. This may affect the overall fire protection and lighting design, especially when added to an existing data center.

How to Choose the Best Containment Option?

Every data center is unique. To find the most suitable option, you have to take into account a number of aspects. The first thing is to evaluate your site and calculate the Cooling Capacity Factor (CCF) of the computer room. Then observe the unique layout and architecture of each computer room to discover conditions that make hot aisle or cold aisle containment preferable. With adequate information and careful consideration, you will be able to choose the best containment option for your data center.

Article Source: Data Center Containment: Types, Benefits & Challenges

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The Chip Shortage: Current Challenges, Predictions, and Potential Solutions

The COVID-19 pandemic caused several companies to shut down, and the implications were reduced production and altered supply chains. In the tech world, where silicon microchips are the heart of everything electronic, raw material shortage became a barrier to new product creation and development.

During the lockdown periods, some essential workers were required to stay home, which meant chip manufacturing was unavailable for several months. By the time lockdown was lifted and the world embraced the new normal, the rising demand for consumer and business electronics was enough to ripple up the supply chain.

Below, we’ve discussed the challenges associated with the current chip shortage, what to expect moving forward, and the possible interventions necessary to overcome the supply chain constraints.

Challenges Caused by the Current Chip Shortage

As technology and rapid innovation sweeps across industries, semiconductor chips have become an essential part of manufacturing – from devices like switches, wireless routers, computers, and automobiles to basic home appliances.

devices

To understand and quantify the impact this chip shortage has caused spanning the industry, we’ll need to look at some of the most affected sectors. Here’s a quick breakdown of how things have unfolded over the last eighteen months.

Automobile Industry

in North America and Europe had slowed or stopped production due to a lack of computer chips. Major automakers like Tesla, Ford, BMW, and General Motors have all been affected. The major implication is that the global automobile industry will manufacture 4 million fewer cars by the end of 2021 than earlier planned, and it will forfeit an average of $110 billion in revenue.

Consumer Electronics

Consumer electronics such as desktop PCs and smartphones rose in demand throughout the pandemic, thanks to the shift to virtual learning among students and the rise in remote working. At the start of the pandemic, several automakers slashed their vehicle production forecasts before abandoning open semiconductor chip orders. And while the consumer electronics industry stepped in and scooped most of those microchips, the supply couldn’t catch up with the demand.

Data Centers

Most chip fabrication companies like Samsung Foundries, Global Foundries, and TSMC prioritized high-margin orders from PC and data center customers during the pandemic. And while this has given data centers a competitive edge, it isn’t to say that data centers haven’t been affected by the global chip shortage.

data center

Some of the components data centers have struggled to source include those needed to put together their data center switching systems. These include BMC chips, capacitors, resistors, circuit boards, etc. Another challenge is the extended lead times due to wafer and substrate shortages, as well as reduced assembly capacity.

LED Lighting

LED backlights common in most display screens are powered by hard-to-find semiconductor chips. The prices of gadgets with LED lighting features are now highly-priced due to the shortage of raw materials and increased market demand. This is expected to continue up to the beginning of 2022.

Renewable Energy- Solar and Turbines

Renewable energy systems, particularly solar and turbines, rely on semiconductors and sensors to operate. The global supply chain constraints have hurt the industry and even forced some energy solutions manufacturers like Enphase Energy to

Semiconductor Trends: What to Expect Moving Forward

In response to the global chip shortage, several component manufacturers have ramped up production to help mitigate the shortages. However, top electronics and semiconductor manufacturers say the crunch will only worsen before it gets better. Most of these industry leaders speculate that the semiconductor shortage could persist into 2023.

Based on the ongoing disruption and supply chain volatility, various analysts in a recent CNBC article and Bloomberg interview echoed their views, and many are convinced that the coming year will be challenging. Here are some of the key takeaways:

Pat Gelsinger, CEO of Intel Corp., noted in April 2021 that the chip shortage would recover after a couple of years.

DigiTimes Report found that Intel and AMD server ICs and data centers have seen their lead times extend to 45 to 66 weeks.

The world’s third-largest EMS and OEM provider, Flex Ltd., expects the global semiconductor shortage to proceed into 2023.

In May 2021, Global Foundries, the fourth-largest contract semiconductor manufacturer, signed a $1.6 billion, 3-year silicon supply deal with AMD, and in late June, it launched its new $4 billion, 300mm-wafer facility in Singapore. Yet, the company says its production capacity will only increase component production earliest in 2023.

TMSC, one of the leading pure-play foundries in the industry, says it won’t meaningfully increase the component output until 2023. However, it’s optimistic that the company will ramp up the fabrication of automotive micro-controllers by 60% by the end of 2021.

From the industry insights above, it’s evident that despite the many efforts that major players put into resolving the global chip shortage, the bottlenecks will probably persist throughout 2022.

Additionally, some industry observers believe that the move by big tech companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Google to design their own chips for cloud and data center business could worsen the chip shortage crisis and other problems facing the semiconductor industry.

article, the authors hint that the entry of Microsoft, Amazon, and Google into the chip design market will be a turning point in the industry. These tech giants have the resources to design superior and cost-effective chips of their own, something most chip designers like Intel have in limited proportions.

Since these tech giants will become independent, each will be looking to create component stockpiles to endure long waits and meet production demands between inventory refreshes. Again, this will further worsen the existing chip shortage.

Possible Solutions

To stay ahead of the game, major industry players such as chip designers and manufacturers and the many affected industries have taken several steps to mitigate the impacts of the chip shortage.

For many chip makers, expanding their production capacity has been an obvious response. Other suppliers in certain regions decided to stockpile and limit exports to better respond to market volatility and political pressures.

Similarly, improving the yields or increasing the number of chips manufactured from a silicon wafer is an area that many manufacturers have invested in to boost chip supply by some given margin.

chip manufacturing

Here are the other possible solutions that companies have had to adopt:

Embracing flexibility to accommodate older chip technologies that may not be “state of the art” but are still better than nothing.

Leveraging software solutions such as smart compression and compilation to build efficient AI models to help unlock hardware capabilities.

LED Lighting

The latest global chip shortage has led to severe shocks in the semiconductor supply chain, affecting several industries from automobile, consumer electronics, data centers, LED, and renewables.

Industry thought leaders believe that shortages will persist into 2023 despite the current build-up in mitigation measures. And while full recovery will not be witnessed any time soon, some chip makers are optimistic that they will ramp up fabrication to contain the demand among their automotive customers.

That said, staying ahead of the game is an all-time struggle considering this is an issue affecting every industry player, regardless of size or market position. Expanding production capacity, accommodating older chip technologies, and leveraging software solutions to unlock hardware capabilities are some of the promising solutions.

Added

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Article Source: The Chip Shortage: Current Challenges, Predictions, and Potential Solutions

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