Data center facilities pro

Mar 12 2009   11:32PM GMT

Can you afford data center CFD?

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

Computational fluid dynamics has become a popular way for data centers to analyze the air flow in their facilities and determine if the cold and hot air is going where it should. But for smaller businesses, CFD is simply out of their price range.

There are different tiers of affordability out there, however. The cheapest I’ve seen is CoolSim, which at its most basic level, costs $7,500 a year. The other two major data center CFD vendors — TileFlow and Future Facilities’ 6Sigma — go for about twice and four times that, respectively.

Another unique aspect of CoolSim is that it’s a client-server, more services-based model. You have a basic desktop application where you build your data center model. Then you export that model to a file and send the file to CoolSim, which crunches the numbers and sends back a report. With TileFlow and Future Facilities, you do the crunching in-house.

“We deliver it as a SaaS model,” said Paul Bemis, president of the Concord, N.H.-based company. “Since it’s client server, you only pay for what you need.”

But the most important aspect of CFD modeling is accuracy, and with a product like CoolSim, there’s a question around whether you get what you pay for. Pete Sacco, president of engineering and consulting firm PTS Data Center Solutions, has said that cheaper CFD modeling tools such as CoolSim simply aren’t as accurate as the Future Facilities product, which his company uses.

Bemis acknowledges that the Future Facilities software encompasses more detailed results, but says that a lot of data centers don’t really need or want that much detail. And obviously he disputes claims that CoolSim results could be inaccurate. But as with any product out there, it’s all about caveat emptor. If you do your due diligence, you can quickly find out for yourself what is the right product for the right price.

2  Comments on this Post

 
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  • Paulbemis
    I think we should make a distinction between numerical accuracy and modeling detail. In terms of numerical accuracy, CoolSim uses the ANSYS Airpak and Fluent solver engines, which are the most accurate in the industry and have 20 years of validations to prove it. In fact, as compared to Future Facilities which uses a "stair-stepped" cartesean mesh, CoolSim relies on the ICEM CFD AutoHexa meshing technology which provides a hybrid (hex, tet, prism) mesh to deliver a very high degree of accuracy on odd shaped or round geometry. I believe what Pete is referring too is the amount of modeling detail exposed in the user interface. The CoolSim strategy is to only expose what is necessary to provide a sufficient level of useful information to users upon which design decisions can be made. It's important to remember that increasing the amount of modeling detail also increases the number of GUI panels, dialog boxes, and input parameters. This makes the product more difficult to use, and more difficult to remember how to use. The CoolSim strategy is to be easy to use, and easy to remember. Unlike engineering analysts found in the auto and aero markets, data center modeling users tend to be "periodic users" based on project needs and therefore have to re-learn the cooling analysis tool each time they apply it. CoolSim was designed specifically to meet these users needs with an high degree of accuracy and a sufficient amount of modeling detail. Recent studies at a number of sites have found the resulting output of these two applications to be very close.
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  • RSParadis
    Another cheap alternative one might want to look at is Synapsense's wireless CFD product[A href="http://www.synapsense.com/go/index.cfm"]. It was very easy to install myself and you can even load thier software onto an existing server verses buying one of thiers.
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