How Cool Are Your Servers?

How Cool Are Your Servers?

October 30

A new techworld.com article suggests that keeping your servers extra cool might be a dated concept. Many data centers are running at much lower temperatures than are actually necessary and could run at much higher temperatures without increasing the threat of damage or equipment failure, according to a recent Green Grid report.

The report explains that the opinion that data centers need to be kept extremely cool was first promoted in the 1950s when the heat and humidity tolerance of equipment was much different than it is today, but this practice is a bit outmoded.

Luckily, according to Harkeeret Singh, a contributor to the report, the industry is making strides towards minimizing the need for air conditioning thanks to water-and air-side economizers. Economizers can help a data center reduce its reliance on mechanical chillers, which saves power and doesn’t increase equipment failure rates.

Intel has been promoting warmer data centers for some time. Richard George, director of cloud services at Intel, explained that companies can save around four percent in energy costs for every 1˚ C (about 2˚ F) they increase the temperature of the data center—pretty significant for such a slight change.

Dell has also begun urging customers to reduce mechanical chiller use in favor of more eco-friendly options. Dell’s latest servers can operate at 10˚C (around 18˚F) hotter than traditional server infrastructures. The servers do this by throttling workloads to compensate for higher temperatures. The servers also allow customers to set policies that shut down non-critical applications in the event that external temperatures get too high. Users can also program fans inside the servers to automatically counteract large temperature increases due to warmer weather or higher workloads.

According to Hugh Jenkins, enterprise programs manager at Dell, although 35˚C (95˚F) is generally the highest operating temperature at which systems can run safely, newly designed systems are capable of safe operation at temperatures closer to 45˚C (113˚F) which is very impressive compared to their 1950s counterparts.

At this point, investing in brand new server equipment might not be viable for everyone, but saving four percent on energy costs is very easily done by allowing servers to run at a slightly higher temperature; gone are the icy data center hallways from days of yore—In fact, Google’s data center is warm enough for their staff to scooter around in shorts and t-shirts.