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  • Does Cogeneration Yield a Suitable RoI in Data Centers?


    What does the data say?

    This is the second of two pieces on Cogeneration or CHP.  The first explored the topic, this one will explore the RoI of technology proven for other industries as applied to data centers.

    As the data center industry continued to consolidate and competitiveness becomes more intense, IT professionals understand the pressure on both capital and operating budgets.  They are torn by two competing forces, faster and more reliable vs. low cost and now.  IT equipment improvements are continuously and the desire to update always calls.  Reliability has become the mantra of hosted application and cloud customers and although electrical grid failures are not considered “failures against uptime guarantees” for some, businesses affected by outages feel the pain all the same.  And if there are solutions, management pressure to implement them quickly and at low cost is always a factor.

    Cogeneration is typically neither fast nor cheap, but it does offer an alternate path to reliability and uptime.   As in all major investments that require sizable capital and space, the best time to consider cogeneration is during data center construction.  That being said, data centers operating today are not going any place soon, so retrofit upgrade paths are also a consideration, especially in areas where electric power reliability from the local utility has become less reliable over time.  So when should data center professionals consider cogeneration or CHP?  Fortunately there are studies available on public websites that help provide answers.

    Temperature@lert: Does Cogeneration Yield a Suitable RoI in Data Centers?

    University of Syracuse data center exterior; Microturbines in utility area (Link to Source)

    One such study is an installation at the University of Syracuse.  Opened in 2009, the 12,000 ft2 (1100 m2) data center with a peak load of 780 KW employs cogeneration and other green technologies to squeeze every ounce of energy out of the system. (Link to Source)  The site’s 12 natural gas fueled microturbines generate electricity.  The microturbine’s hot exhaust is piped to the chiller room, where it is used to generate cooling for the servers and both heat and cooling for an adjacent office building.  Technologies such as adsorption chillers to turn heat into cooling, reusing waste heat in nearby buildings and rear door server rack cooling that eliminates the need for server fans completes what IBM calls its Greenest Data Center yet.

    Temperature@lert: Does Cogeneration Yield a Suitable RoI in Data Centers?

    Left: Heat exchanger used in winter months to capture waste microturbine heat for use in nearby buildings; Right: IBM “Cool Blue” server rack heat exchangers employ chilled water piped under floor.

    This is certainly an aggressive project, but can the cost be justified with a reasonable Return on Investment?  Fortunately data has recently been released to quantify the energy conservation benefits.  PUE performance measured during 2012 was presented at an October 2013 conference and show a steady PUE between 1.25 and 1.30 during the period, a value that compares very favorably when compared to the typical data center PUE of 2.0. Uptime Institute self reporting average PUE is 1.65 with qualifications, Digital Realty Trust survey of 300 IT professionals with annual revenues of at least $1 Billion and 5,000 employees revealed PUE of 2.9.  (Link to Sources: Uptime Institute Digital Realty Trust)

    Temperature@lert: Does Cogeneration Yield a Suitable RoI in Data Centers?      

    IBM/SU Green Data Center 2009 Goals (Link to Source); 2012 Actual Performance (Link to Source)

    So how can we calculate the actual RoI and compare it to the projected goals.  First, the goals stated in the table on the left show savings of $500,000+ per year.  Another presentation by the microturbine supplier shows a $300,000 per year goal, quite a bit different.  So how do we know what the savings is?  We don’t since there is no reference site where the data center is identical and in an identical location without the CHP.  So we can use the 2.0 average PUE and calculate the energy savings, but that’s not a real answer.  And we also need to take into account the fact that tax incentives and grants such as the $5 Million for the Syracuse University project needs to be reviewed to determine the cost to non-subsidized projects.  Hopefully project managers will provide more information to help data center operators better understand the actual savings as the project matures.

    CHP for data centers is presented with an array of benefits including improved reliability through less dependence on grid power, lower power costs, reduced carbon footprint.  NetApps installed CHP in their Silicon Valley data center to reduce their reliance on grid power due to frequent rolling brownouts and the uncertainties of the power market costs.  Their experience is not as instructive due to the site’s reduced need for cooling due to use of direct air cooling.  As a result the CHP system is used only when the utility is strained.  It is difficult to find quantitative data for modern installations.   While the data seems encouraging, actual energy cost savings are not provided.  We will watch the progress at this and other projects over the next several months to see if CHP costs yield an acceptable RoI via reduced energy costs.  Stay tuned.

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  • What Not To Do in a Server Room: 3 Server Room Commandments

    There's advice everywhere, whether on ServerFault or TechRepublic or any other web source you may have googled for, there is someone always giving you a 1001 tips on how to do your job best. Often these "How-To" tips are formulated for those with big budgets to spend from equipment to monthly recurring costs. However, not everyone can adhere to these perfect guidelines when there are budgetary constraints. The dilemma on how best to serve your server room with such constraints comes down to 3 simple commandments:

    (1) Thou Shalt Not Build Before Assessment of Space

    The best place to start is to assess the overall space. There's no better way than that to decide how to fit cables, wires, racks, cabinets, patch panels, cooling units, and any other mission critical equipment. By observing the overall layout, you will want to look for where walls, windows, and doors are located as well as air ducts. Then decide how to best use the space, you can get better energy efficiency as well as less hot aisles! Also don't forget to keep your wires neat and color coded for the future!

    (2) Thou Shalt Not Stack Upon Stack

    Your equipment is expensive, not flapjacks, let's not stack them. Sure this faux-pas has been done often using server rails. Yes, they are often necessary when your space is the size of a child's closet; however, the answer is not to stack them directly on top of each other. Your equipment is holding precious data or running mission critical events, the last thing you want to do is to overheat your equipment and cause failure.

    This offense is not only seen using server rails but all over the place in a server room. It's definitely a no-no to leave small pieces of equipment on top of a hot rack or cabinet. There's a reason we give them aisle spacing, it's important not to stack upon your rack, especially when there is not enough air circulation going on. Beware of dust collecting as well, the last thing you want is a dust bunny getting caught in the exahust of your server.



    (3) Thou Shalt Not Skimp on the Cooling

    As cool as raised flooring maybe, not everyone can afford it and not just any builder can do it. However, there is a variety of air conditioners available on the market that are cost-effective and energy efficent as well! Since ASHRAE raised the limits on running server equipment from 68°F to 85°F before things really start to go bad in your server room, it is possible to run your equipment at higher temperatures. By doing so and not skimping on cooling, one can run at high prpoductivity without fear of losing data as long as their air conditioning is running.

    But what happens when the air conditioner goes out? That's when things start to go bad especially when your equipment is running at higher productivity thus producting more heat. Without cooling, mission critical equipment failure could occur, or even worse, server room fire. Although they are rare, make sure you have a fire supression system; But I would not not immediately opt for the water sprinkler system since your server room equipment was not made for such aqueous activities.

    The most cost effective and best protection you can provide for your server room on a budget is to monitor for temperature. That way you can be alerted to changes in raising temperature before it's too late. After all it's better to be safe than sorry.


    Is your server room or do you know of someone's server room that is not being monitored for temperature? Are you concerned with energy consumption, ability to monitor off-hours, and/or preventing mission critical equipment from failure? If you or know someone who is experiencing such issues, we want to hear form YOU!


    We will be giving away ONE FREE USB DEVICE per month to the server room with the most need! Valued at $129.99,Temperature@lert USB Edition is a low-cost, high-performance device that monitors the ambient temperature in your server room and alerts you via email when the temperature rises or falls outside your acceptable range.

    Enter here or please send a brief description, pictures, and/or videos to diane@temperaturealert.com for consideration! Our team will select one winner each month based on description and need, because we firmly believe that companies in every industry should take a proactive stance in monitoring temperatures to avert disasters.


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  • ALERT: March's Temperature@lert USB Promo Winner!

    USB Contest Winner:



    Child Guidance & Family Solutions (CG&FS)

    Child Guidance & Family Solutions (CG&FS) is one of the largest behavioral health care agencies serving Summit County, Ohio, USA. They provide behavioral health care treatment to over 4,000 children and 1,000 adults every year. For over 70 years, CG&FS has been committed to supporting children, adults, and families who face abuse, grief, neglect, trauma and mental health challenges. Their highly-trained staff of more than 150 professionals work together to help those in need to lead successful lives.

    They have been diligently working on funding their campaign to erect a new building because all of their current sites are rented and their main center is well-over 50 years old. Their main center's IT site is currently protected by our Temperature@lert USB device. However, their new building sits unprotected from such IT temperature-related disasters.



    CG&FS is a 501c3 non-profit outpatient counseling and behavioral health facility. Their focus is assisting others; therefore, funds are extremely hard to come by for their IT budget. According to their Network Specialist, Jim Isom, "funding is getting tighter every year, while being asked to do more and more." This is when Temperature@lert decided to step-in and offer their product to help them with their monitoring needs.


    "It is so important to monitor our IT department server room equipment for out of boundary temperatures which can damage or shorten the life of costly network and server  equipment. The USB Temperature Alert device has helped by alerting us via email at the time the temperature exceeds our set limits."

    ~Jim Isom, Network Specialist @ CG&FS

    Temperature@lert believes that everyone should avert temperature-related disasters, especially when it comes to mission critical equipment. Often the IT department is overlooked in many organizations because of overall budget constraints. Nevertheless, it is important to ensure your servers are operating at proper temperature ranges in order to protect data being stored and to promote a healthy lifespan of equipment. After reviewing CG&FS's photos of their sites, we knew they'd be a great candidate for Temperature@lert USB edition.




    Contest Details

    We will be giving away ONE FREE USB DEVICE per month to the server room with the most need! 

    Valued at $129.99,Temperature@lert USB Edition is a low-cost, high-performance device that monitors the ambient temperature in your server room and alerts you via email when the temperature rises or falls outside your acceptable range.

    Please send a brief description, pictures, and/or videos to diane@temperaturealert.com for consideration! Our team will select one winner each month based on description and need, because we firmly believe that companies in every industry should take a proactive stance in monitoring temperatures to avert disaster.


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  • Tips for Energy Efficiency and Optimization: Data Centers

    In the quest to become more energy efficient, or "green" as the buzzword goes, Data Center operators have many considerations and variables to keep on their radar. The implementation of these processes can be a multi-faceted project and typically requires both engineering and management insight to accomplish a variety of goals. With that said, according to the 2011 ASHRAE Thermal Guidelines for Data Processing environments, there are 5-6 separate classes of data center environments. Each class is separated by two factors, the equipment present in the environment, as well as the environmental control that is needed relative to the equipment.

    ______________________________________________________________________________

    A1 DC Enterprise Servers and Storage Tightly controlled environment
    A2 DC Volume Servers, Storage, PCs and Workstations      Some control
    A3 DC Volume Servers, Storage, PCs and Workstations  Some control
    A4 DC Volume Servers, Storage, PCs and Workstations  Some control 
    B Office PCs, Workstations, Laptops, Printers  Minimal control
    C  POS equipment, Computers, PDAs  No Control

    ______________________________________________________________________________

     

    One important note, that while classes A1-A4 may utilize the same types of equipment, the differentiation is important for the segmented environmental specifications, including Dry-Bulb Temperature, Humidity Ranges, Dew Points and Elevation. All of these specifications vary within classes A1-A4, as well as for B and C (Table 4, ASHRAE Guidelines).

    After environmental conditions and hardware have been specified, operators must pay strict attention to a long list of considerations for energy optimization. The cliché "attention to detail" is relevant in this case, given the variety of options for optimization. Operators need to consider the big picture first and foremost, but cannot ignore the incremental choices that can also provide value. The following is an abridged version of the list, but provides some of the basic planning considerations for an energy efficient data center. 

    Architecture: 
    • Layout and Arrangement of the Data Center
    • Economizer Airflow Path
    • Synchronization of newer buildings with older sections
    • Economizer Choice: Water-side, Air-Side, None
    • Cooling Routines (in racks or alongside equipment, sensor location)
    Type of Data Center
    • High Performance Computing (HPC)
    • Internet/Web Applications
    • Enterprise storage/servers
    • Financial
    Temperature and Humidity Ratings:
    • Power Distribution Equipment
    • Switches
    • Network Gear and Hardware
    • Cooling units
    • Personnel health

    As a general rule of thumb, ensuring the ratings for all equipment is necessary in the larger picture, as the capabilities of equipment may vary significantly under different environmental conditions. If possible, establish a baseline rating for the equipment (and future purchases) to simplify management and planning.

    As an aside, the concept of "Waste Heat" is a particularly interesting idea. The concept is based on applying hot server air to other processes that require a certain amount of heat, thereby making use of the supposed "waste heat". This is the same idea as recycling. Ventilation air (for the building), heating water, and a number of other internal processes require some amount of heat. By using "Waste Heat", the server air becomes positive reinforcement for other processes, rather than a drawback. For further information on Reusable energy, or the "Energy Reuse Efficectiveness" (ERE), visitTheGreenGrid.org.

     For additional information on 'Green Data Centers', energy efficiency, and ASHRAE guidelines, refer to the compiled Thermal Guidelines or the ASHRAE homepage.



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  • USB Temperature: Server Room Alert!

    USB Contest Winner:

    ProfitBricks USA:

    Temperature@lert ventured to Cambridge, MA last week to deliver and install a FREE USB Temperature device for the winner. The winner is ProfitBricks, a cloud computing startup headed by CEO Bob Rizika and the founders of 1&1 Web Hosting. They specialize in Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), providing cloud computing resources to businesses of all sizes.

    ProfitBricks reached out to Temperature@lert with a photo of their server room, along with a caption that described their temperature concerns. The caption read "Getting hotter outside, I'm worried about us!". These words came directly from Jeffrey Rogers, a ProfitBricks Solutions Engineer and highly-knowledgeable IT professional. Jeffrey expressed his concerns about rising temperatures in a follow-up email, particularily with the upcoming spring and summer. 

    "With the summer coming up quick, I'm getting concerned about the temperatures down there. If it's hot now (in winter), I can only imagine the dangers that lie ahead!".

    From what we saw in the provided photo, ProfitBricks has a small room occupied by a variety of server racks and hardware. From there, they had an individual "wall A/C" unit that provided cooling for the equipment. We recognized that the congestion of equipment (in the small space) likely produced an immense amount of extra heat, and from the words of Jeffrey himself, "it's been a sauna for some time now, we should be monitoring this!".

    Check out the video below to see the Temperature@lert USB device in action at ProfitBricks!


    Temperature@lert at ProfitBricks USA (YouTube link)

    Contest Details

    We will be giving away ONE FREE USB DEVICE per month to the server room with the most need! 

    Valued at $129.99,Temperature@lert USB Edition is a low-cost, high-performance device that monitors the ambient temperature in your server room and alerts you via email when the temperature rises or falls outside your acceptable range.

    Please send a brief description, pictures, and/or videos to diane@temperaturealert.com for consideration! Our team will select one winner each month based on description and need, because we firmly believe that companies in every industry should take a proactive stance in monitoring temperatures to avert disaster.

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  • Server Room Air Conditioners: Purchasing

    Server Room Air Conditioners:

    A Confusing Purchase

    Critical server infrastructure is typically off-site nowadays, as companies are settling for all-inclusive hosting solutions to handle their racks and equipment. Still, there are many companies (particularily SMBs) that continue to house their servers on-site. 

    Air control (HVAC) is an important consideration regardless of server size, expense, or technical expertise. Overheated servers and equipment are always a problem, but what will you do about it? 

    Crowdsource:

    A common method is to crowdsource the answer. For example, these spiceworks discussions are likely generating tremendous traffic, simply because of the visible expertise on server rooms and air conditioners. Take a look for some quick advice, but beware that any suggestions are limited to the original question, and may not apply to your particular situation.

    Spiceworks Discussion 1 (AC Brand Recommendation)

    Spiceworks Discussion 2 (Brand and General Temperature Advice)

    Spiceworks Discussion 3 (Specific 200 sq. foot Room)

    Is this the answer? Should you simply pose your question on a crowdsourced support forum, and shoot the breeze until answers begin to populate? When you're purchasing this critical component, are you leading by advice from a stranger? 

    Google Help?

    Try google for a product search. You'll find that for "HVAC selection", outside of the crowdsourced solutions and sales pitches, there are hardly any unbiased sources that provide detailed solutions, differences, and common obstacles that purchasers may encounter. A glance at the shopping results for "server room air conditioner" adds more confusion, as the specifications and prices aren't easily digestible. There's an unfamiliar brand list (Tripp Lite, Sunpentown, Whynter), a range of power options (8000 to 36000+ BTU), and tremendous price variation ($335 to $14,000+). At a high level, most of us understand that BTU is an important consideration for HVAC units. Still, this relationship is not linear. Higher BTU ratings don't necessarily translate to higher prices, and higher BTU ratings don't nessecarily indicate better cooling functionality. Do you know the room's current humidity or dew point? Where should you start? Clearly, if you've ever been tasked with choosing an air conditioning unit for your server room, you've discovered that this is a difficult (and multi-faceted) task that requires research (and not merely crowd opinion). The real question is, where is the research?

     

    Helpful Resources:

    These resources are primarily driven by expertise, experience, and industry standards/regulations. Use these sources in your HVAC quest, and feel confident that you're following informational and factual guidelines. When your superior asks you about the HVAC system that you've chosen, don't let your answer be  "x person on Spiceworks recommended it". These resources will help you find a server room air conditioner that suits your needs. As always, make sure to abide by all ASHRAE guidelines when possible.

     

    ASHRAEwiki: Comprehensive source for definitions and scientific explanations of relevant terms. Highly technical explanations.

    2011 ASHRAE Data Center Environment GuidlinesNote: While this is now two years old, it still contains useful tips for HVAC in server rooms. We urge you to join ASHRAE to gain access to their complete database, as this represents the best possible source.

    Energy Saving Tips: Tips for saving energy in server closets and data centers.

    DataCenterResources.com: An excellent, multi-pronged resource with specific information and insight for a variety of applications and products, including:

     

    CATAGORIES (LINKS):

    Warehouse Applications    Data Center Cooling  
     Office Environments    Network Data Closets  
    Server Rooms    Raised Flooring  
           

     

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  • Temperature Alert: 3 Ways to Prevent Fire in your Server Room

    One very broad and simplistic way of describing the purpose of fire suppression systems is a "Temperature Alert" system that responds to rising temperature. However, Temperature@lert temperature monitoring devices are not designed to detect fires.

    One of our customers recently mentioned that her Temperature@lert system detected high temperatures, which ultimately led to the discovery of a fire! The fire damaged some of her equipment and though she was utilizing a "Temperature Alert" device, she did not have an adequate fire suppression system. While our devices are excellent for detecting temperature, a fire suppression system is still very important. After hearing this story, we wanted to re-state the importance of adding a fire suppression system to protect your assets, while also monitoring for significant temperature variations.

    FM-200

    Fire suppression systems and procedures need to be implemented into a disaster plan for your home/business.  Whether you're protecting mission critical data or hardware, your fire system likely relies on some sort of temperature spike and/or gas detection alert. But what happens when you're alerted?  Do you have a simple system that showers electrical equipment with gallons of water per minute? Have you wondered if your equipment is being protected, by the "right" protection?  For these fire suppression guidelines, we'll keep the topic centered around server rooms and data centers(and electrical systems/wiring).

    To be fair, there are many considerations that must be taken into account to prevent fires in a Server Room. And with those considerations, come solutions. As usual, the Temperature@lert team wants to stress the need for a comprehensive plan that provides more than "minimum defense".

    For example, that 'minimum defense' can be defined as a sprinkler system that responds to rising temperatures from smoke and fire. Standard sprinkler-based systems utilize water that can damage your sensitive equipment. If your sprinkler system activates while server racks are in operation, a "worst-case" type of scenario begins to develop.

    The following suggestions outline hard methods (technology) and other considerations for fire suppression. Keep in mind, all of these methods must be deployed alongside building procedures and local fire codes. From server racks, to power sources, to wires, fires are a significant hazard to your infrastructure, real or virtual. 

     

    EPO: Emergency Power Off Functionality

    EPO can be one of your best defenses against fire suppression. All server (and HVAC) systems should be tied to an emergency power function, of which can be activated automatically (in case of imminent disaster) or manually by responding firefighters or employees. This function is a truly priceless lifeline for protecting equipment. The EPO is a nice safeguard against water sprinkler systems, since the water is a secondary hazard to your "live" electrical systems and equipment.

     

    FM200 or Waterless Fire Suppression System:

    There are many different chemical combinations and technologies that are now utilized in the high-tech data centers. As we've stated, a "water-based" sprinkler system is only the bare minimum of protection, and the secondary hazards of electrical shorts and water damage drive this method into irrelevancy and uselessness. 

    FM200: This link to DuPont's website shows their FM200 (HFC-227) system, commonly applied in hardware-sensitive locations. For server room purposes, this is an excellent replacement for standard sprinklers and outdated Halon systems. The primary chemical in the DuPont FM-200 is 1,1,1,2,3,3,3-Heptafluoropropane. If you've installed a system that contains HFC-227, be sure to follow safety guidelines for handling, storage, and deployment. After a fire, HFC-227 can leave potentially harmful residues (chemicals and particles) that can be hazardous. In this case, be sure to conduct atmospheric tests before returning to the server room.

    Quick note: VESDA (Very Early Smoke Detection Apparatus) systems are newer systems that are specifically designed to detect smoke particles in the air using sophisticated filters. The pricetag for this type of system can be justified by the protection that it provides; early detection means early prevention, and disaster is curbed before it begins.

     

    Fire Extinguishers:

    Albeit more of a cautionary note, the same logic for sprinkler choice applies here with fire extinguishers. There are a wide range of fire extinguishers for a variety of uses. Simple research brings us to Class C extinguishers, used for fires in wiring, fuse boxes, energized electrical equipment, computers, and other electrical sources. Still, there are different chemical concentrations for Class C (Halotron-1, Dry Chemical, Carbon Dioxide). 

    We strongly recommend against dry chemical extinguishers for a number of reasons. Most importantly, these chemicals can leave residual matter on your equipment. When imagining exposed servers, wiring, and other electrical processes, residue from fire suppression chemicals can cause further damage to your equipment (regardless if the fire caused any initial damage). Many sources recommend a Class-C Carbon Dioxide extinguisher for a server room, as the suppression effect comes without residual penalties. 

    While this serves as a beginners guide to fire suppression, newer technologies and methods will (and have) arisen when compared with these suggestions. What technologies are you employing to protect your server room from fire?

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  • Consideration of High Temperature Ambient Environments and Free Cooling in Data Center Operation

    Driectly from the original post: http://www.datacenterpost.com/2013/01/consideration-of-high-temperature.html

     

    Temperature@lert

     David Ruede, VP Marketing at Temperature@lert, says:

    Techies love acronyms, and IT professionals are masters of the jargon. Where else would we find such gems as CRAC, PUE, SaaS, DCIM, VoIP and VPN among the scores if not hundreds of options for the next big idea?

    Why do we need these when The Free Dictionary lists 259 phrases alone for the acronym DC? (Link 1)  First, we love to speak in shorthand.  Time is always too short; things need to be done quickly.  Speaking in Acronym makes us an insider, the elite few who can feel the bits and petabytes flowing through the veins and arteries of the interconnected web of the virtual world.  And short of a Vulcan Mind Meld, acronyms save time, although one could argue that when used in meetings there may be a few who don’t really understand the meaning and because they don’t want to appear “stupid”, don’t ask.

    Many of these terms started off as marketing terms.  Why would we need CRAC when AC may be sufficient?  And why is PUE debated daily as to its true meaning in professional social media sites?  Every data center operator, supplier and professional looks to set themselves or their companies apart from the competition.  I’ll argue this is a good thing because it makes web searches easier – I don’t have to sort through hundreds of household air conditioners sold in retail outlets to find what I need for a data center, server or telecom room.

    Recently a new acronym has been making its way into the jargon.  HTA, High Temperature Ambient, has cropped up in several professional periodicals and online marketing pieces.  The phrase is used to describe the benefits of reduced energy consumption in data centers and other IT facilities that operate at what many consider higher than “normal” temperatures, say 30°C (86°F) for example.  Described in earlier pieces as high ambient temperature or high temperature in the ambient, the idea of running data centers at higher temperatures has gained prominence as a way to save electrical energy, a very costly piece of the data center’s operating budget.  Often used with terms like “free cooling” or “air side economizers”, the idea is that today’s servers have been specified to run at higher temperatures than those just a few years ago, so operating equipment at higher temperatures has no detrimental effect.

    In April 2012, Intel published a study of the potential energy savings in green data center maker Gitong’s modular data centers.  The Shanghai study showed an annual cost reduction of almost $33,000 per year, which is significant.

    Figures 1a, 1b: Tables showing before and after HTA results - Source: Intel Link 2

    While saving energy is a very desirable goal, data center, server and telecom room operators are well served to understand the underlying assumptions behind “turning up the heat and opening up the doors and windows”.  First, all of the equipment in an IT space comes with manuals, and the manuals specify operating conditions. Insuring all of the equipment in the ambient is able to run at elevated temperatures is highly recommended, particularly since older devices or appliances may be more prone to heat related performance degradation.  ASHRAE’s TC 9.9 2011 Thermal Guidelines for temperature and humidity control are a good reference as to where to start when designing or setting up an HVAC system. (Link 3)

    Second, while the HVAC systems in IT spaces are generally well designed and provide adequate airflow to the equipment, time has a way of changing things.  Profiling the temperature of the data center to see if any changes in operation or addition of equipment have created “hot spots” with sufficient resolution to insure each rack or piece of equipment is operating within specification can be done with existing equipment by moving temperature sensors to areas not normally monitored during the temperature mapping process.

    Third, changes in temperature can cause changes in relative humidity.  Continuous monitoring of not only temperature but relative humidity before and after raising the temperature is recommended to insure both of these critical parameters are within manufacturer’s specification.

    And if IT professionals decide to employ “free cooling” by figuratively “opening up the doors and windows”, they would be well advised to check ASHRAE’s TC 9.9 Gaseous and Particulate Contamination Guidelines for Data Centers and again their supplier manuals for specification compliance. (Link 4)

    Figure 2: Ambient Air Cooling Unit (Link 5)

    Much has been written about free cooling; a June 2012 article is a good example. (ref. Link 5)  Cooling may indeed be “free” and many can and do use free cooling combined with HTA to make significant reductions in their energy bills.  As in all good ideas, “first, do no harm” is a good motto.  IT professionals may be well served to verify and validate the assumptions against best practices as they apply to their sites before any significant changes in operation are made.

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  • Startup Time: Temperature@lert goes to Cambridge, MA

    This startup represents the first winner of our USB promotion. We'll disclose company details and other specifics in an upcoming blog post.  Keep an eye out for the post and pass along the Monthly Server Room Contest to a SysAdmin-in-need!

     

    Contest Details

    We will be giving away ONE FREE USB DEVICE per month to the server room with the most need! 

    Valued at $129.99,Temperature@lert USB Edition is a low-cost, high-performance device that monitors the ambienttemperature in your server room and alerts you via email when the temperature rises or falls outside your acceptable range.

    Please send a brief description, pictures, and/or videos to diane@temperaturealert.com for consideration! Our team will select one winner each month based on description and need, because we firmly believe that companies in every industry should take a proactive stance in monitoring temperatures to avert disasters.


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  • Server Room Wiring Tips

    The discussions based around server room monitoring, temperature measurement, and climate control have the same general focus overall. Realistically, the need for any type of monitoring solution takes a backseat to standard maintenance and upkeep of server rooms and racks. Simply put, monitoring a poorly maintained server room is wholly counterintuitive. Remember that "server room monitoring" of any type, is only effective with regular maintenance, proper organization, and cleaning. A monitored mess, is still a mess!

    Time and time again, System Administrators and IT personnel alike venture into their new (and terribly organized) server rooms and scream "The horror, the horror!".

     

    Organize your Wires by Color:

    This is a simple, logical fix that makes a tremendous difference. For those with complex server rooms and a bevvy of connections and switches, this is absolutely crucial. Straight from Google's tour of their datacenters:

    "Each of our server racks has four switches, connected by a different colored cable. We keep these colors the same throughout our data center so we know which one to replace in case of failure."

    As you can see, this Google datacenter has employed that tactic successfully. Cleanliness is truly next to godliness. Though you may not house an entire data center in your backyard, this tip is priceless for any server room administrator. Colored organization allows you to pinpoint incremental failures, and act without disrupting the entirety of the system. 

    Organize all wires from a similar origin and use zipties to tighten them up (if possible). The zipties "bunches" will occupy less overall space. If you can, purchase different color wirings for differentiation between origins. Your IT administrators will be pleased that you've provided these organizational tools, and hopefully, will utilize them to eliminate confusion and help simplify technical maintaince/equipment checks. 

     

    Colocation

    To take this a step further, server room administrators who use distant colocation centers should have a thorough outline of all wires, servers, and connections. Wires must be divided by color, organized by zipties to eliminate congestion, and most importantly, all server equipment should be photographed. The photos can serve as a guideline for "remote hands" who may need to make occasional (but neccesary) adjustments for you. With the color wirings in place, you'll be able to direct your "remote admins" with a visual guide and wirings will be clearly marked by color. For extra protection, label the wirings with symbols or marks to further signify their specific use. 

     

    Cleanliness!

    This is an often overlooked tip that many business owners fail to act on. Debris and other hazards can be left behind from standard maintaince or even with the instalattion of new hardware. The Association of Data Center Cleaning Professionals (ADCCP) recommends these simple tips for cleanliness in your server room.

     

    Subfloor Surface Cleaning 

    Subfloor surface cleaning includes vacuuming the concrete subfloor plenum using specialized critical filter vacuums in compliance with recognized standards for cleaning data centers. This service removes contamination from your subfloor plenum to eliminate the build-up of particulate that can be carried into your room’s air flow and cause downtime inside your datacom equipment. 

    Raised Floor Surface Cleaning 

    Raised floor surface cleaning includes cleaning the surface of the raised floor panels. This service includes vacuuming and damp mopping the floor surface with cleaning chemicals approved for use in data center environments. 

    Exterior Equipment Surface Cleaning 

    Exterior equipment surface cleaning includes cleaning the exterior surface of cabinets, equipment, and workstations by vacuuming where applicable with critical filtered vacuums, and then wiped clean an approved anti-static cleaner approved for use in data center environments. No input devices should be cleaned unless the device is completely powered down.

    Interior Server Cabinet Cleaning 

    Interior server cabinet cleaning includes cleaning the surface of the server cabinet doors, server exhaust fans, and surfaces of the servers inside the cabinet. Surfaces are vacuumed with critical filtered vacuums and then wiped clean using an approved anti-static cleaner approved for use in data center environments.

    Ceiling Cleaning 

    Ceiling cleaning includes overhead cleaning by either vacuuming above the drop ceiling tiles by using critical filter vacuums in compliance with recognized standards for cleaning data centers, and / or vacuuming and wiping clean overhead raceways with an approved anti-static cleaner approved for use in data center environments. 

    Anti-Static Floor Finishing 

    Anti-static floor finishing includes applying an approved anti-static floor finish to non-raised floor surfaces to prevent dangerous static build-up. Manufacturers of high pressure laminated (HPL) access floor panels strongly recommend never to apply floor wax to the surface of the access floor panels. 

    Subfloor Encapsulation 

    Subfloor encapsulation includes the application of an epoxy coating to the concrete subfloor plenum surface that acts as a vapor and dust barrier. Epoxy coatings should be applied manually to the surface of the subfloor plenum. Installing a Subfloor encapsulant is one of the best ways to reduce concrete dusting and subsequent airborne particulate concentrations in your data center. 

    Airborne Particulate Count Sampling 

    Airborne particle count sampling includes a sampling of airborne particulates within your data center utilizing a laser particle counter. Particulate sampling is an indicator of airborne contamination. We recommend that an airborne particle count sampling be obtained at each regularly scheduled maintenance cleaning by trained personnel.

     

    Once you've gotten past the basics of cleanliness and wiring practices, don't neglect temperature monitoring devices and/or sensors for your server room.  Choose a robust monitoring system and be proactive with cleanliness to ensure smooth operation. Many problems, such as meltdowns or short circuits, can be prevented with regular cleaning. Your monitoring solution should be sensitive to temperature and humidity changes, and should not be alerting you to periodic annoyances and incremental changes that result from the lack of cleaning.

     

    Check out our FREE E-Book for specifics on temperature monitoring, server room upkeep, and more!

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