What do we want from CFD?

Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) analysis of data centers has been going on for some time, but how does it help us?  For an existing data center, do you want a CFD model to show you things you already know, such as hot or cold spots?

90% of the time we are using a CFD report to help with data center arrangements, comparing scenarios and layouts to best suit a given space.  Sometimes this is for new data centers and sometimes this is for existing spaces that are looking to add equipment – and in either case the data center operations team wants to know what will happen.

Does a CFD report tell the truth?  To a degree, the truth is given, but not absolutely.  Despite even the best of efforts, there are many, many nuances in a real data center than just cannot be completely captured in a virtual data center.  But we can come close.  Leakage rates, factors for under floor (or overhead) obstructions can be incorporated, bank-off panels can be found, and more and more to make a CFD model closer to the actual.  But we reach a point of diminishing returns, where adding more detail does not affect the depicted performance.

What a CFD model doesn’t do is solve our problems for us.  We need to establish what we can change and what we can’t, then take those scenarios and crunch the numbers to see what improvements we might be able to achieve.  A CFD report can definitely help with finding the best choice for potential layouts, but only from the scenarios given.  A model will not start to generate best and worst options for adding equipment to our data centers… at least not quite yet.

So we are back to making our own decisions.  With a CFD modeling report to help us, we can make more informed decisions, which often lead to the capabilities of allowing more equipment to be added and in a better location while also helping to plan for future equipment refreshes in our data centers.

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