– Michael Sigourney, senior product specialist at AVTECH (www.avtech.com), says:

ASHRAE has recently begun telling their members that data centers can run effectively at higher temperatures and that doing so will reduce power consumption due to a lower need for cooling. It seems obvious that this will occur although many users have been reserved in recent years to let data centers run above 68-70 degrees. There will be inherent risks, naturally, although cash flow is important to business and power is a major expense all data centers wrestle with. Even worse, power may become more and more of a limited resource in the future and some locations may not have extra capacity to expand a facility. Therefore, learning to reduce power usage or dependency is prudent.

Warmer data centers is a concept that surely must be examined, although many will concede is easier to do when you have the staff and financial resource that Google has. Hot swapping disks or CPUs that fail is easy when you have standby units by the dozens and staff working around the clock. However, that is not the case for 99% of the data centers I have spoken with and if something goes bad at an inconvenient time, then the damage can be exponential and catastrophic.

Risks when raising the temperature. AVTECH believes the risks are similar for a data center at 70 degrees as it may be at 78 degrees… bad things just happen a lot faster and more frequently when temperatures rise dramatically over a large population of data centers. Sure, some sites get lucky and never seem to have issues. That is statistically unlikely however and experienced IT managers know it. Therefore, dealing with an increase in temperature for the data center is similar to investing your pension fund. A manager has to answer honestly to themselves as to how much risk they want to take on?

The basics stay the same, increases in temperature will stress components towards the upper limit of the recommended environmental parameters they were designed to operate under. This can short out circuit boards, change the physical shape of small and fast moving parts causing parts to “crash” or break, allow solder “creep” to weaken signal strength or create irregularities in data transfer, cause static electricity if humidity is too dry and more. Most of this can happen while a manager is standing right in front of the hardware and is almost invisible to see until something breaks. When that happens, whether a manager is on site or somewhere else, the bottom line is they need to know immediately to prevent compounding the costs or damage.

Raising the temperature does not cause a need for environmental monitoring equipment although the resulting long term effects of periodically losing equipment unexpectedly does. Most people agree that no matter where you set the thermostat, changes in those conditions mean the resulting risk to expensive IT equipment is changing. When this happens, the IT manager and support team need to know. Finding out about a problem after the fact instead of as it is developing is expensive and can lead to a lifetime subscription to Monster.com. IT managers can only be in control when they know what is happening as it is happening and AVTECH has built a business helping managers know immediately and then resolve issues with our Room Alert and TemPageR products. Going without environment monitoring, whether it is an AVTECH product or someone else’s, would be like sending you son to college in the family car with no insurance and beer money in his pocket… not a decision you’ll look back on with pride.

As temperatures rise, risk increases and the length of “forgiveness time” is reduced. There has never been a more important argument for immediate alerting and detailed monitoring than in todays data center. IT managers must have a detailed understanding of both what is going on in their data center and how the data center changes conditionally over time. Different environmental conditions occur at different times of the year, as new equipment is added, and as mother nature changes the world around us. As almost every company depends unconditionally on being online, available and fully operational, the pressure for IT managers just continues to increase. Automation with advanced tools is important for environmental monitoring and many other applications.

The changing environmental data should be logged automatically into a system with graphing available so that when a need to review and make changes occurs, everything is at hand. All sensor data should be kept in a central repository that is available from anywhere for instant review and analysis. Even more important is an advanced alerting system that allows different environment thresholds for different sensors with escalating alerts to different people at different times. AVTECH’s new Device ManageR is the model software package for todays IT or facilities manager. No longer can an organization go with basic network monitoring software where environmental monitoring for the data center is piggybacked onto an overloaded “generic” alerting system. Advanced alerting with flexible and easy setup is expected and the software needs to be able to complete automatic server shutdowns, system reboots, log off users and more. These actions need to occur in real time in order to address critical situations. These environment monitors also need to be integrated with power products and relays to enable lights, audio alarms, fans, backup generators and more.

AVTECH is proud to be on the leading edge of development and a market leader in environment monitoring.