Industry Insights

CI: Data Center Trend #3: Slab Floors Pushing Out Raised Floors

Monday, August 22, 2016 | by Justin Baillargeon

Our third data center trend that we will examine looks at the elimination of a data center staple, the raised floor. David Cappuccio, VP Distinguished Analyst for Gartner, said it well himself: “There are many reasons why you shouldn’t have raised floors, yet we have 90 percent of data centers with raised floors today.”

While a large majority of data centers currently utilize a raised floor environment, there is a moving trend towards eliminating it on new data center builds. In a 2014 Uptime Institute survey, 52% of respondents said that they do not plan to use a raised floor in their next build.

So, why the change? With the rapid development of new technologies and best practices, the necessity of the raised floor has been diminished. While it has traditionally provided pathways for cabling and cooling, the space it requires, design considerations, and upfront cost have driven a lot to consider alternative methods.

Those that are moving to a slab floor are claiming back valuable space that otherwise would have been occupied by the raised floor. Their cabling infrastructure is now moving overhead in basket trays, and cooling infrastructure can be a number of options, some of which are more efficient than utilizing the raised floor as a delivery method for cooling. Alternative cooling methods, including close-coupled cooling and more efficiently designed CRAC units and containment have allowed slab floors to be used with increasing equipment density within the racks and cabinets.

There is no longer a concern of overfilling the floor with cabling that could potentially block critical airflow and most new data centers being built have moved to overhead cabling and power even when a raised floor is still being used for cooling. With cabling overhead it’s a lot easier to maintain, removing the need to remove several floor tiles just to service one cable or to run a new cable.

With increasing densities and associated power, many question if the raised floor can support these changes – can it effectively cool the higher density deployments and can it support the increasing equipment loads in the future? Is the initial upfront cost of a raised floor, usually starting around $20 per square foot, worth the extra design considerations that must be put in place? Let us know by tweeting @Ortronics and telling us your thoughts.