From AC to IT
Richard Venga explains how air conditioning installers may well be IT-cooling installers without even realising it. And how they can make the most of today’s cooling technologies.
You’ve probably heard it before – “Every company these days is an IT company” – and to a certain extent, that’s true. The proliferation of IT has meant that virtually every company is reliant on technology to remain successful.
This expansion of computing technology also means a growth in the amount of cooling needed for the dedicated IT infrastructure – and this is an area that many air conditioning installers are missing out on, despite already having the skills to capitalise on the opportunity to grow their business. In a time when installers need to find ways to set themselves apart from the crowd, being able to offer both AC and IT cooling installation can deliver a stable new revenue supply.
When we talk about IT cooling, we aren’t talking about the enterprise dedicated data centres – the Amazons, the Facebooks, the Googles. We are talking about server rooms located within multipurpose buildings.
Whether it’s for an office, a retail outlet, a doctor’s surgery, a hotel or a coffee shop, a lot of these businesses will have a room somewhere with critical computer support that cannot be switched off. Anybody that has an IT communications or server room knows the fundamental issue with keeping IT hardware on-premise is that it must be kept cool to keep doing its job reliably.
IT cooling is a round-the-clock requirement and is increasingly critical for all modern businesses. Air conditioning installers working on a refurbishment or a new install project should always ask about the server rooms, extending the existing work that is already being done in the building.
Typically, these rooms aren’t designed and built specifically to be server rooms. For this reason they will need dedicated, independent cooling units to ensure the critical IT hardware is kept running.
Air conditioning installers are already in these buildings but may not have the confidence to quote for the IT cooling element. However, a new generation of IT cooling equipment is making the job easier by offering a dedicated ‘plug and play’ system that will be very similar to the products that installers are already using, and therefore familiar enough that they can work with confidence.
But there are some differences in the requirements for IT cooling. Air conditioning installers know all about keeping occupants comfortable, but for most buildings, this will be a 9am-5pm job.
Comfort cooling air conditioning units will often have downtime, especially in the evening when a building isn’t as busy. IT cooling, on the other hand, requires dedicated cooling 24/7 every day of the year – without fail and this is where ‘traditional’ direct expansion (DX) units can struggle to meet the continuous needs of IT cooling.
These mission-critical parts of the business simply cannot fail so they cannot rely on the same air conditioning system used for the rest of the building and they need their own dedicated system that offers the highest redundancy.
Many businesses won’t be aware that they can get their IT cooling facilities directly from an air conditioning installer. There is the perception that is it a more high-tech requirement needing an IT cooling specialist. But that doesn’t have to be the case.
When installers are asked to quote for installs and refurbishments of existing HVAC equipment for a variety of different buildings, it is now worth asking about the server room as well, as a lot of businesses don’t always link the requirements for IT cooling with the needs for occupant comfort.
These two parts of the same building, with their different requirements can often be dealt with separately by the facilities manager, or the specifying team, meaning you may miss out on the second part … unless you ask.
We live in a fast-moving world and developments in computing generally mean smaller, more powerful units and this increases the density of computing within a room or space, leading to even more heat generation.
Specifying and installing a dedicated air conditioning system for an IT server room, regardless of how large or small it is, can provide you with another opportunity for business. There are products such as Mitsubish Electric’s packaged Computer Room Air Conditioning (CRAC) that can make this an option for air conditioning installers to offer their customers.
In a fast-moving and competitive market installers not only have the skills and experience, they also have the dedicated equipment and full support to capitalise on the opportunities of a growing vertical market.
Richard Venga is Senior Product Manager at Mitsubishi Electric