Important Considerations for Choosing Data Center Floor Tiles and Raised Floor Systems
Raised floor systems have been around since computers were in their early stages and many IT managers do not even consider a data center to be a data center without one. A computer raised floor is often automatically included in projects today and its use is rarely questioned, with good reason. Once you've made the decision to install a computer raised floor in your data center, there are a number of important considerations to keep in mind in terms of selection and layout.
The Importance of Layout
Raised floor systems offer many benefits when you are able to easily access mechanical, electrical and infrastructure underneath, so racks and cabinets should be aligned with the edges where the data center floor tiles meet.
Anything overlapping will trap tiles, making it difficult to remove them. According to the National Electrical Code, all electrical outlets and boxes must be accessible, and it's also a good idea to ensure coolant piping and cable trays are easy to access as well. You shouldn't need to move cabinets filled with equipment just to inspect cabling or repair a leak.
Aligning Cabinets with Tile Lines
It's best to line up the cabinets to the front of a rack, so you don't create a situation where airflow panels go under a rack; you want the air to be right in front. With uniform racks and cabinets, it's best to align them in the the front with the raised floor tile line. Cabinets 24" or 48" deep will align perfectly with standard 24-inch data center floor tiles, although cabinets that are 36" or 42" deep will still offer more space for front-loading equipment when aligned with the tile lines.
48" cabinets are more popular than ever as equipment size and cable volume increases. Designed for deep hardware with more room necessary in front, the best option is creating 3-tile cold aisles, which offer space for air-flow raised floor tiles.
While most data center raised floor systems are based on an immovable point in the room using construction drawings, a more efficient method is basing the floor grid on the planned cabinet depths and the widths of the aisles using a logical layout. The plan may then be adjusted to achieve the optimal aisle spacing at extremes of the room to avoid aisles that are too wide or too narrow. This method may even gain an extra row of equipment cabinets.
Choosing the Best Finish for Data Center Floor Tiles
While the layout is certainly an important consideration, just as important is the finish of the raised floor tiles. Style should not be your main concern here, but rather the performance of the finish.
High Pressure Laminate, or HPL, is the best choice for data center floor tiles. It provides a hard surface that's easy to clean. It minimizes static generation with great static reduction when it's laminated to a grounded metal surface. HPL is very brittle, so it must be used on completely flat surfaces.
Carpet is just one of the many coverings you can choose, providing a seamless surface in a data center. 24 by 24" carpet tiles are designed to show minimal wear and are low maintenance as well. They may be installed with or without a tacky conductive releasable adhesive.
Hard surface tiles are a loose lay raised floor tile finish and available in many contemporary colors for a low maintenance yet attractive finish that may be removed and reinstalled again and again and maintain their appearance.
Vinyl Composite Tile, or VCT, was the most common choice for a data center floors up to 1969. It chipped and cracked over time and did not do much to dissipate static charges as these floors needed to be washed and waxed fairly often. It was replaced with high pressure laminate.
The bottom line is proper planning and research before installing raised floor systems is absolutely essential for improved efficiency, space and effectiveness in a data center. Care should be given to plan an efficient floor plan to maximize space and choose the right materials for the data center floor tiles to prevent electrostatic discharge that may damage sensitive equipment.