Temperature Monitoring ASHRAE Standards Proving a Hot Topic in Data Centre Management

The subject of data center temperature monitoring is something that should be on the mind of every IT manager and chief information officer as energy consumption can become a significant expense to any organisation. But according to new ASHRAE standards and specifications, a rise in temperature may actually reduce energy consumption.

This topic was recently explored in a Processor article as the author explored the risks in relation to the potential benefits of these new standards. And, while the verdict may still be out for some, temperature monitoring is definitely a hot topic for all. The concept of turning up the temperature in data centers has a number of IT managers worried, even though research from ASHRAE and companies like Google have found that it can be more economical to replace IT components that fail under stress of the environment than to run a cooler data center overall.

The claim is that overall temperature monitoring at a higher level eliminates larger ongoing power costs. Herman Chan is the director of Raritan’s Power Management Solutions group and he highlights that all IT equipment vendors agree that the new 26.6°C ASHRAE standard will provide enough cooling to ensure the device does not overheat (although some departments have even pushed this temperature higher without adverse effects.) Chan did note there is potential risk from higher temperatures as it provides less of a window to react if a cooling unit fails and temperatures overall start to climb. Raritan recommends placing a temperature monitoring sensor near the bottom, middle and top of IT equipment racks near the cool air inlets to ensure proper levels.

Dave Ruede, vice president of marketing at Temperature@lert, points to reduced equipment reliability as the principal risk of operating at higher temperatures. On the other hand, manufacturers have tested their systems to determine performance over a wide range of temperatures, finding sufficient reliability. The problem arises in that data centre conditions are never completely duplicated, making temperature monitoring important. DLB Associates president and first chair of ASHRAE TC 9.9, Don Beaty, says that risk will vary on a case-by-case basis and full engineering research for each case is necessary to achieve complete understanding. In his opinion, there is no risk of equipment failure if the company is temperature monitoring and operating within ASHRAE’s recommended guidelines.

And even with proper temperature monitoring controls in place, humidity can still be a threat. Michael Sigourney, senior product specialist at AVTECH, noted that extremes in low humidity can cause static electricity, which has the ability to cut out power devices and cause havoc. High humidity can cause condensation that will short out equipment, causing corrosion or even electrical shock. In the practice of temperature monitoring, Chan says that humidity is less of a concern than it has been in the past. According to ASHRAE’s related guidelines, while humidity should be monitored, it does not change as rapidly as temperature and is not location dependent.

A number of IT managers still wonder if raising the temperature in data centers can increase costs in other areas. Ruede thinks not, as temperature monitoring equipment has been incorporated into modern data centres for the past several years, so it is factored into the design. Concerns may arise, however, in centers where temperature monitoring equipment is not present due to age or size of the installation. This issue can easily be overcome with the installation of a simple temperature monitoring device or alert system. In truth, temperature monitoring devices should always be part of data center design. If the installation of a temperature monitor was somehow overlooked, it is a simple addition to protect the heart of any organisation.

This article has been reproduced from the original by Susan J. Campbell, Contributing Editor - IT TMCNet.comm.

Categories: Environment Monitors