DON’T LEAVE YOUR DATA CENTRE
FEELING HOT, HOT, HOT
When the weather hots up it is imperative that you don’t let your data centre get all steamy too. Sensitive computer systems are particularly susceptible to even the smallest environmental changes, so while we may love relaxing in the sun, your data centre certainly doesn’t like it when it gets hot, hot, hot.
It isn’t just the heat that can have a detrimental effect on your equipment either; summer storms can wreak havoc with a server room if it causes a power surge or outage. Even with a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) an air-conditioning supply can be knocked out by a storm, leading to the overheating of critical systems.
Electronic equipment needs to keep cool to maintain optimum performance levels and heat can have long-lasting effects on these systems, which will prove very costly to replace. The cost of environmental impacts on a data centre isn’t just measured in terms of replacing equipment either. Downtime on a website or ordering system can lead to the loss of potential business revenue.
So while companies fret about the cyber threats to their business, many may miss the dangers posed by environmental factors. But IT professionals can take practical maintenance steps, at no additional cost to their business, to help safeguard technical infrastructure performance over the warmer summer months. Importantly, they must focus on improving their systems’ air flow and avoid the ‘seven deadly sins’ of poor infrastructure maintenance.
Chris Smith, marketing director at on365, says: “Many companies experience difficulties in maintaining the correct operating temperatures for their business systems. This is frequently due to out-dated thinking and errors, such as failing to maintain effective air flow for cooling their computing equipment.
“With the growth in high density, high power systems, many IT managers may not be 100 per cent certain what they should do to make their data centre and its associated utilities achieve optimum performance.”
At on365, we have identified the ‘seven deadly sins’ that all IT managers must avoid to safeguard their data centre operations this summer.
Sin one: Operating IT system server racks with poor containment of both power and data cabling will restrict the airflow through the equipment and cause dangerous hot spots. Racks with glass or solid doors can also have the same effect.
Sin two: Failing to use appropriate blanking plates in spare rack space can lead to rack-level air mixing. This can ‘short circuit’ hot air from the back and sides of equipment, back into itself or into other systems. This can destroy the efficiency of the cooling system.
Sin three: Adding more equipment on an ‘if it fits’ basis, without reviewing the cooling and power needs of the data centre, can have a catastrophic result. This ‘ad hoc capacity’ habit often means new, higher performance equipment is added to the racks or used to replace old units. This causes higher than previously experienced power and heat densities, which in turn can lead to intermittent problems with equipment owing to hot spots and peaks in power demand.
Sin four: Over-cooling a data centre can be just as bad as letting it hot up. Now that recommended equipment operating temperatures are going up, and summer is bringing higher ambient temperatures, IT managers often seek a ‘margin of safety’ by trying to cool computer spaces to 16 or 17ºC, when a maximum temperature of 20 to 21ºC is often acceptable. This overcooling habit works air conditioning units harder and can end up compromising the overall cooling infrastructure when it is required to manage peaks in demand. IT managers must check their room temperatures are set up for their specific servers’ needs.
Sin five: Installing more ceiling mounted cassette-type air conditioning units to try to mitigate hot spots in the room is not useful either. These air handlers are designed for comfort cooling of people more than the cooling of specific equipment in a given part of a data centre and are very efficient at mixing cold air with the returning hot air. In short, it just doesn’t work and is an inefficient use of money. It is better practice to try to separate the hot and cold air.
Sin six: Neglecting to regularly check that power and cooling systems are in balance across the system can have a detrimental effect on the efficiency of the data centre. A series of seemingly insignificant changes can combine to radically reduce airflows or increase the risk of particular racks drawing excess power under peak load. Regular reviews of the data centre air flow and cooling at a system-wide level are vital.
Sin seven: It is a high risk strategy to install urgently needed servers or storage without planning for increased power or cooling budget. On365 has seen organisations put new servers on racks due to immediate business need, without a budget for cooling, leading to equipment overheating and failures.
Close monitoring of all areas of the data centre will not only ensure you don’t commit one of the deadly sins, but also help you recognise any unusual activity. By noticing and acting quickly when anything does crop up you will hugely reduce the immediate and long-term impacts to your data centre and business as a whole.