As data center density increases, so can the amount of heat produced in those tight spaces. IT groups need to rethink cooling strategies to keep equipment operating normally while still achieving some of the cost-reduction benefits promised by a dense infrastructure. Containment is an increasingly popular way to tackle cooling challenges. By containing rows or racks, organizations can separate cold air from the hot return, eliminating hot spots and improving cooling efficiency.
Which containment approach is right for you? Consider these factors:
1. Do you currently have a false ceiling that can be used as a return plenum?
Some containment solutions require a false ceiling that can be used as a plenum for returning hot air to the computer room air conditioning (CRAC) unit. With these solutions, local code might require plenum-grade wiring for that space. If you decide to install a dropped ceiling, you will need sufficient clearance above racks for fire suppression systems, lighting and airflow.
If a plenum doesn’t exist, it will be easier and more cost effective to implement a form of cold air containment that prevents the hot exhaust and cold air from mixing.
2. Do you have a raised-floor data center?
For data centers with overhead cooling delivery, cold-aisle containment might be the only choice. Implementing cooling under a raised floor offers more options. For example, you could implement cold-aisle containment at the row level. With this approach, however, you still need to balance air delivery into the cold aisle relative to your IT equipment’s consumption.
Another option is rack-level containment, where ventilated tiles are positioned below the rack instead of in the cold aisle. Combined with a CRAC unit configured for static pressure, this approach can provide more control over the air delivery to the equipment in the rack.
3. How much customization can you accommodate?
Aisle containment can require significant data center customization. You must order the right parts for your facility and cut certain parts to fit. You might also need to modify or add fire prevention systems for the newly contained areas.
Although rack-level containment helps reduce customization and increase flexibility, some of these solutions might still require customization. Chimney racks might need customized ducting into the ceiling or ductwork above the racks. Door coils require plumbing for water or refrigerant. Active cooling fans require additional power routed to each rack. Adopting these solutions could add deployment expenses.
4. Do you want to maximize containment flexibility?
Aisle containment solutions usually involve a specific number of racks so organizations can define a set of aisle containment components that can be used in multiple aisles. But if all the racks you contain aren’t filled with equipment, you must blank off unused rack spaces to ensure containment integrity.
A rack-level solution might provide greater flexibility. With a rack-level solution, you can focus first on heavily populated racks to maximize the value of containment and then add racks as needs change.
The Dell PowerEdge™ Energy Smart Containment Rack Enclosure is a cold-side, rack-level solution that can deliver this flexibility. This passive rack enclosure, which is sealed to the floor over ventilated tiles, pulls air into the enclosure from beneath the floor and distributes it equally to installed equipment, without facility modification or ductwork connections.
Compared with other containment solutions, the Energy Smart rack offers:

  • Simple deployment — Rolls into place over ventilated tiles so enclosures can go anywhere in the data center.
  • Enhanced efficiency — Helps enhance cooling efficiency when paired with CRAC units that sense static pressure under the floor. As air needs change for the racked equipment, the enclosure pulls in cold air. The CRAC unit senses the change in air pressure and modifies air delivery, dynamically responding to hardware operation.
  • Cost savings — Helps drive down cooling expenses, avoid customization costs and achieve capital savings by increasing rack density with fewer CRAC units.

Check out the Dell PowerEdge Energy Smart Containment Rack Enclosure at dell.com/poweredge/rack