Jan 04, 2012

How much are you willing to boost the heat in your data center?

Heat has traditionally been the enemy in the data center. Most companies spend tons of money to cool them, I've seen estimates that 1.5% of all power worldwide is used to control data center temperatures, which is an amazing amount of power consumption. Our data center is currently kept at 20 degrees C (68F). We are looking at raising the temperature to 24C (75F), which should result in significant energy savings. Of course it goes without saying that this can't be at the expense of reliability. How much can data center temperature be increased before creating reliability issues with today's hardware?

Here's an article about Intel's position on data center heat.

Intel Tells Data-Center Customers That 100 Degrees Isn't Too Hot

"Intel Corp., the world's largest maker of computer chips, is telling its data-center customers they can turn up the heat.

Most server and storage computers sit in rooms cooled to a brisk 64 to 69 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 21 C), an effort to avoid hot spots that might cause equipment to malfunction. All that air conditioning contributes to electricity costs of $26 billion a year. The facilities use 1.5 percent of the planet's power, and that's set to double by 2014, Intel says.

By using new software and hardware to get a more detailed picture of what's hot and what's not, data centers can spread work around to different computers to keep them cool, says Jay Kyathsandra, an Intel marketing manager. That approach, together with a range of other technologies sold by Intel, could let technicians eventually turn the heat up past 100 degrees. The challenge is convincing customers, which count on servers to keep their businesses running, that the approach is safe."

On the energy front, Intel claims that each 1C increase in data center temperature results in a 4% savings in energy cost.  That's pretty significant, and a solid motivation for increasing temperature as long as it can be done safely.  A big part of that is a comprehensive monitoring system, something that Intel is making easier with server chips that include temperature sensors.  If you can use the data to create accurate models that reflect hot and cold spots in your data center, you can improve the efficiency of your cooling system by planning the placement of IT equipment for efficient cooling without adding cooling capacity.  Facebook runs its data centers at 27C (80.6F), with apparent reliability, so if you could approach that from your current 20C (68F), your company could see nearly a 30% decrease in energy consumption at your data center.  While you might not want to go to 27C, I think many companies data centers are at a little warmer than your 20C without any problems.       

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