Every data center has an invisible ceiling that limits the amount of IT equipment (ITE) it can cool. With the shift toward high-performance computing (HPC), facilities are even more challenged when it comes to having enough cooling capacity to match (and exceed) ITE cooling demand. As data centers become more power-intensive due to HPC requirements, the cooling infrastructure must keep pace.

Inadequate cooling can lead to increased operational costs, reduced efficiency, and environmental concerns. It’s a problem, since it prevents data centers from meeting design capacity and also restricts them from becoming sustainable and energy efficient. And, considering wasted cooling energy is not contributing to the overall cooling of ITE, it's an expensive problem.

Stranded capacity is wasted energy spent on equipment and areas that need not be cooled. Stranded cooling capacity can include bypass air (supply air from cooling units that is not contributing to cooling the ITE), too much supply air being delivered from the cooling units, lack of containment, poor rack hygiene (missing blanking panels), and unsealed openings under ITE with raised floors, just to name a few.

Combating the inefficiency

Releasing stranded capacity improves energy efficiency, reduces costs, and allows for increased data center capacity without additional cooling equipment. To avoid becoming a stranded asset, organizations should conduct thorough assessments when building or upgrading data center facilities. While the root cause for stranded assets is often down to operational issues and conflicts of management or space allocation, future scalability, energy efficiency, and identifying technology obsolescence must be considered with strategic changes or updates.

A lack of metering and metrics can contribute significantly to an inefficient data center. To combat this, it’s highly recommended to use data center monitoring software to help identify and eliminate wasted energy within the white space. Monitoring and compliance with operational best practices can minimize the power and cooling imbalance effectively, but this needs to be an ongoing and continually updated process to reduce risk.