According to a report in InfoWorld recently, a data centre has been running in a generator shed without any problems. In an experiment that has been running for nine months – from winter through to autumn – the servers, networking infrastructure and storage systems have shown better uptime than Google or Amazon.
Apparently there is a heater for the generator that creates some warmth in the shed, but apart from that it’s subject to the outside temperature and humidity. The test has been carried out by David Filas, a data centre engineer at the healthcare company Trinity Health, to show that IT equipment is tougher than most people think. The aim is to get Trinity Health to to raise the temperature in their data centres, despite a reluctant IT department.
It’s not a completely original move. Microsoft carried out a similar experiment running five HP servers in a tent from November 2007 to June 2008. The company reported 100% uptime.
It’s a tough one, this. If you are increasingly reliant on 24/7 systems availability they don’t want to take any risks. The manufacturers are going to play safe in specifying temperatures because they don’t want to get sued. So it’s really down to companies themselves to see what works, and they’re not going to do that unless there is a good reason.
What’s needed is a cost benefit analysis – what are the cost savings of turning up the data centre heat versus any additional risk of downtime. That might make people think about it a bit more. Where a potential risk is involved there has to be a financial incentive to make any changes.
Has anyone done any calculations?