Embrace the heat: Data center tips for summer operations

Summer and the heat it brings can be trouble for the data center without proper planning and precautions.

With the summer solstice in the rear view mirror, those of us north of the equator are preparing for the true summer heat to arrive in force this next month. While BBQs, boating, and your preferred beverage may be the first things on your mind for this next month, many folks in the data center world greet summer with a different attitude entirely. 

For starters, the period from June to August is Outage Season. Data from previous years shows more centers head offline during this time period than any other 3-month span of your calendar. This includes both poor performing infrastructure to full-scale outages. In addition, data center managers often fight higher energy bills due to hotter external temperatures that drive up the heat inside your facility.

Getting interrupted during your shift on the grill with a phone call from your CFO wondering where these sky-high energy costs are coming from likely isn’t part of your summer daydream. That said, savvy data center managers equipped with the right tools can navigate this part of the year without breaking a sweat (well, maybe not — more on that below). Here are a few tips to make sure you’re saving money and saving your vacation this summer:

Finish up spring cleaning

Though not as official as the Summer Solstice, spring cleaning offers IT teams the opportunity to nip problems in the bud. Spring’s a great time for teams to complete their annual or quarterly health management checks and identify which units are already operating in a less-than-efficient state before the heat wave arrives. It’s likely hardware already under-performing won’t improve with the heat on. Using real-time data and predictive analytics provided through an infrastructure management (DCIM) tool can help pinpoint where these problem areas are faster than time-intensive manual tests.

Run it hot!

It’s not quite as blistering as that hot yoga class, but data center managers wrestling with their energy bills should seriously consider embracing the heat and asking techs to bring their shorts to work. Running data centers in the 80 to 82 degree Fahrenheit range as opposed to 70 degree or below can save up to two percent per degree, per bill. That’s a significant cost savings, especially if we’re talking a full 10 degree swing. Even during peak workloads, your data center should be able to take the heat.

It may seem to go against conventional wisdom, but running a server “hot,” or operating that data center in a high temperature ambient (HTA) state, boosts the inlet temperature of that unit but still sticks well below component specifications. This is another way allowing crafty (and probably now sweaty) data center managers to keep their cooling costs under control. 

Sweat it out: predictions and monitoring

Embracing balmy temperatures in your data center is not a new trick in the data center manager’s book, but it does become a much easier task to manage when your team has some sort of data center infrastructure management offering to keep a close watch on your network. Relying solely on manual processes and checks simply doesn’t cover all the bases for managers these days. Real-time telemetry data, particularly power and thermal information, can be crucial as you test environmental changes with your infrastructure. Predictive analytics can also serve a purpose to identify potential problems before they become big-time issues or outages. 

This data is really what allows IT decision makers to choose the right direction for their own networks. Thirty-two percent of data center managers without DCIM indicated they don’t have enough actionable data to make day-to-day decisions or long-term forecasting, according to a recent survey – and running your data center hot requires insight into both of these lanes. These offerings are more than handy during the summer months when tensions and temperatures are at all-time highs. 

While we’d stop short of telling you to grill that steak or shish kabob on top of the nearest server rack, turning up the heat in your data center can be an effective way to counter higher energy costs and reduce the risk of outages in one swoop. Cheers to a great summer inside and outside your data center!

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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