Feb 14, 2012

What can be done to control noise levels in data centers?

The sound level in our data center is so high that it interferes with conversation, not to mention concentration. The decibel level has been periodically checked using sound meters, and the highest we have recorded was 81 decibels, less than the 85 decibel level that would trigger OSHA restrictions. Even so, it is loud enough to get old in a hurry. What are some effective ways to lower the noise level to improve the working environment in data centers?

Here's an article about data center noise that you might find helpful.

Cut The Noise

"It will come as no shock that smaller enterprises can lack the space to spread out. Many must situate their data centers and related equipment in the midst of an employee workspace. These types of setups can create more noise than is typical in an average enterprise, as the servers, fans, air conditioners, and other equipment keep up their humming.

The problem is, data center noise can be even louder than typical background noise, impinging on surrounding employees’ work processes and even causing potential hearing loss, says Doug Alger, IT architect for physical infrastructure at Cisco (www.cisco.com).

Combine that with the fact that noise inside the data center has become louder in recent years as installations have become smaller and more densely populated with hardware, and you have a real workplace problem, Alger adds. The first step is recognizing the noise issue. The next step: doing something about it. Luckily, noise issues can be rather easily solved, though solutions range from relatively inexpensive and hassle-free to a more complex task of relocating office workers. "
You can do a few simple things that will help somewhat, such as installing acoustic tiles in place of your existing ceiling tiles and mounting acoustic tiles on walls. It can make a significant difference in perceived sound, even if the measured decibel level only drops by a decibel or two.

If you really want to drop the noise level significantly, probably the best thing you can do is switch over to liquid cooling. It makes a huge difference for personnel working in the data center, while at the same time providing a positive impact on the hardware. For example, a company I work with installed an ECO II system from CoolIT (http://www.coolitsystems.com/index.php/data-centers.html), and it dropped the sound level in a very noticeable way, and since installation they have been able to increase rack density pretty significantly. It may be something you want to look at. Over time, you recoup some of the capital expenditure to install liquid cooling through decreased energy costs, but for it will take some time if you look strictly at energy savings to evaluate your ROI.
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