It is difficult to imagine a data center without cables and electrical wiring; it is the quintessential part of a data center. More or less, it is like the nervous system providing connectivity to the different parts in a data center. There has to be a way to deal with the installation of these cables unless you want your staff to trip over them.
Raised floor is one of the ways of effectively dealing with this kind of a situation. As the name suggests, a raised floor is an elevated platform in a data center constructed for the purpose of providing a passage for electrical and mechanical services. This is mostly done to avoid cluttering the floor with cables and wires.
The height of the raised floor can vary from 2 inches to 5 inches from the concrete floor depending on the data center requirements, and the height of the ceiling above the raised floor. According to the prescribed standards of construction, a ceiling has to be about 9 feet from the ground. There are many uses of a raised floor in a data center; cooling is one of the primary purposes. Perforated tiles can be installed to allow cool air from the air conditioning systems to reach the room.
Recently this technology has seen the dust. Data center operators believe that they can do away with raised floors while still retaining the operating efficiency of the data center. With the advent of technology, and inclusion of blade servers and high density server racks, heat within the rooms has elevated. Raised floor for cooling has ceased to help in this situation. It is difficult to limit the number of cables placed on raised floor without heating the place underneath.
Installation of raised floors is very expensive. Under floor maintenance adds to the menace while fire safety measures, lighting adds to the overhead costs. High density servers have become the flavor of recent data center development where multiple servers can be stacked in one rack. As a result, server racks have started to weigh a ton, and raised floors cannot withstand the weight. Raised floors may even succumb to the weight and collapse.
Cooling is no longer a serious issue. Raised floor for cooling has taken a back stand, and low level or localized cooling has gained popularity. Operators are using hot aisle and cold aisle configurations for eliminating localized heating. They also reduce the PUE, electricity and maintenance costs.
If raised floor is not being used, then there should be another way of dealing with cables. False ceiling or overhead cable management is gaining popularity as a replacement to raised floor. They provide lesser cooling disruption and fault location is easier. The only concern that lingers is accessibility.
Having said all that, raised floors are not going to be eliminated forever. They have their own advantages and disadvantages. Some companies find raised floor very suitable for all their cooling and management solutions. Some have adopted alternate ways of reducing PUE, and improving efficiency. In some cases, raised floors cannot be discarded just because they are old fashioned.
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