Whether you need to monitor a data centre’s environment for power, cooling or security, new wireless monitoring solutions offer a range of cost, data acquisition and management benefits that could just swing the balance the next time you need to gather environmental monitoring data to manage your critical data centre infrastructure.
Traditional environmental monitoring devices have at least one Ethernet RJ45 port to connect them via an RJ45 cable to a local IP network. Once connected the environmental monitoring device can report data from plugged in sensors for temperature, humidity, water leakage and a range of environment related information to an environmental monitoring software platform.
Wireless connectivity removes the need for the RJ45 cable. Whilst an environmental monitoring device may still have an RJ45 port, communication and control is ‘wireless’. A wireless monitoring device may be powered from a local mains power supply (via an AC/DC adaptor) and/or a built-in lithium-ion battery.
In a server room or data centre environment, wireless environmental monitoring can solve several installation and management issues and will reduce the overall cost per monitored device. For the same operational budget, a larger number of low power wireless environmental sensors can be deployed over a larger area of the data centre facility and the data centre environmental monitoring system can be more easily extended over time.
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There are several wireless technologies that could be used in IT, server room and data centre type applications, with each defined by their transmission speed, range, and data packet size:
Whilst going wireless has two primary advantages. There are concerns within server rooms and data centre applications when it comes to wireless networks. However, the Wireless Tunnel Gateway technology from AKCP overcomes these.
Computer and server room monitoring applications are different in scale and the type of information required for environmental monitoring. Consider a small computer or server room with from 1-3 server rack cabinets. If each rack has about 5kW of IT load, at full utilisation there is around 15kW of cooling load in the room and a suitably sized air conditioner will have to be installed to maintain a comfortable ambient of around 18 to 25⁰C and humidity levels humidity of 40-60%.
Within this type of IT installation, temperature and humidity monitoring is typically achieved using a single environmental monitoring device at the server cabinet or room level. Data is reported to software hosted on the local computer network or remotely to a could based application. If there is a temperature or humidity reading outside a pre-set ‘safe’ range, an alert can be sent out to an email distribution list or as an SMS text message to set of mobile phone numbers and as SNMP traps. For larger server rooms it may be important to monitor door access and there may also be IP-based cameras in operation to provide visual records of events within the server room.
At the data centre level there could be 10-100 or more server cabinets to monitor and control. Over this larger type of application, it may be necessary to install multiple environmental monitoring sensors and to generate cabinet thermal maps showing temperature and humidity readings front and rear, top, middle, and bottom of the server cabinet as well as the front to rear differential temperature readings (ΔT) and within the hot and cold aisles where containment is installed. In such a more complex monitoring environment in a data centre, a wireless monitoring system can be easier and less costly to installed than a fixed wired installation. Cabinet level security could also be more important, especially in a colocation data centre and the environment monitoring software should include access control features where RFID door lock handles are installed to provide access to the server cabinets.
There’s a quiet revolution underway driven by developments in 5G, Edge computing and the Internet of Things (IoT). More and more devices are being connected using wireless technologies to generate data for analysis and automation. In server room and data centre environments, the most commonly installed environmental monitoring systems have been fixed wire systems, connected through RJ45 ports to the local IP network.
Several manufacturers of environmental monitoring systems for data centres now offer both fixed-cable and wireless communication features, either as part of an existing product or as a standalone product set. With wireless sensors offering lower cost per port monitoring and greater flexibility, it may only be a matter of time before wireless environmental monitoring systems become the dominate type within server room and data centre applications. Whilst there will always be concerns about cybersecurity within any critical environment including server rooms and data centres, the worldwide adoption rate of mobile phone banking apps shows just how quickly these fears can be allayed by speed, functionality and ease of use.
Server rooms and data centres are designed to provide secure, managed, and controlled environments in which to run IT operations. In order to ensure uptime and availability, it is importance to have a suitable environmental monitoring system in place but what should you monitor and how should the data collected be reported and acted upon?