The Green Grid, the non-profit industry consortium aimed at improving resource efficiency in data centres, has released its Data Centre Efficiency and IT Equipment Reliability report. This latest research looks at the robustness of modern IT equipment, along with new practices that enable data centre operators to reduce and eliminate the need for air conditioning.
Currently, the perception of the data centre’s equipment tolerance to heat and humidity is based on practices dating back to the 1950s, with a belief that servers and other equipment operate within very tight environmental tolerances. The result is an unnecessary waste of resources and carbon.
Harkeeret Singh, Global Head of Energy & Sustainability Technology for The Green Grid said “These practices are archaic, predicated as they are on maintaining constant and narrowly-defined temperature and humidity levels. In practice, modern equipment can tolerate periods of much greater heat and humidity, with no significant effect on failure rates.”
In the report The Green Grid shows how data centres can run at significantly higher temperatures and humidity levels without affecting overall equipment failure rates. If periods of high humidity are balanced with periods of more favourable environmental conditions, where water- and air-side economizers can use outside air and water for cooling, data centres can reduce reliance on chillers without any detriment to overall failure rates.
While data centres may not be ready to completely do away with mechanical cooling, The Green Grid believes that the industry is making constant progress in minimizing the need for air conditioning thanks to economizers, better data centre design and more efficient operating practices.
The new report, which is free to members of The Green Grid, gives a detailed understanding of suitable IT operating ranges. The report also provides techniques for better temperature and airflow management in facilities as well as implications for data centre design and operations. It can help data centre operators make immediate savings in costs and carbon from their operations.
Review: Actually, the report seems to be free for everyone, so take a look.
It’s good to see The Green Grid giving its backing for the long-held view that equipment can run a lot hotter without mishap. But the real problem here is the manufacturers.
Data Centre managers are driven by the need to provide uninterrupted service and to do that they rely on manufacturer support. If warrantees only cover equipment within operational temperature specifications, and if the temperature range is for full utilisation, then that’s what they will generally be run at, whether necessary or not.
Manufacturers need to be more realistic about how hot their machines can run and over what periods. As I reported earlier this year, Dell carried out a series of tests to see whether its PowerEdge servers could withstand higher temperatures without impacting performance. The net result is that ‘fresh air’ specifications were built into every platform of the latest generation of the servers. Customers can choose to raise the temperature in a data centre to take advantage of the operational savings or can even build their next data centre completely without chillers.
It’s a move in the right direction, but even for these servers there is a limit on the time that the equipment can run hot. Data centre managers would need to closely monitor temperature levels to ensure these manufacturer maximums are not exceeded and vendor support lost. I suspect that many will stick with lower temperatures as a result.