With weather patterns in the UK forecast to become more erratic we are seeing a greater focus being placed on how to design a server room to ensure it is adequately cooled. This summer saw a large rise in demand for emergency air conditioning and cooling units as some server rooms struggled to maintain a comfortable and safe working ambient.
Summertime temperatures in the UK are forecast to both rise and become more erratic. This presents server room designers with an even greater need to design the right cooling system for any server environment, whether it is an on-site server room, edge computing facility or cloud service co-location datacentre. Server rooms need cooling solutions that are flexible and adaptable and not just to weather conditions. Whilst server manufacturers strive to make their hardware as energy efficient as possible, the actual power they draw is rising in line with their processing power. Typical populated racks are drawing higher amounts of power (up to 30kW or more) and this means a higher internal ambient and warm air to cool down at the rear of the racks.
What is for sure is that a sudden spike in ambient temperature or prolonged period of higher temperatures can lead to IT hardware failure. Put simply, heat kills electronics. A warm ambient also makes for an uncomfortable working environment for anyone having to work the facility. Smaller server rooms, network closets and comms rooms possibly have the worst of all worlds. As more equipment is piled in there is simply less space within which to plan for an optimum ambient environment.
Server room environmental monitoring can assist the situation. What you don’t monitor, you cannot control. Monitoring room temperatures allows for corrective actions to be taken when an alarm threshold is reached, and potential disasters can be avoided. Best practice for a server room environment is a temperature of 20-25˚C and with a humidity of 45-50%.
Whilst most servers can work above 30˚C, other hardware items within the IT space can be slowly damaged. Consider the lead acid batteries in a typical UPS system. This type of battery has a recommended working life of 3-5 years at 20-25˚C for a 5-year design life battery. For every 1degree rise above 30degrees, the design life halves.
With adequate computer room monitoring (for temperature and humidity) most overheat situations can be avoided. If you do find yourself needing to take emergency actions here is a typical checklist you can follow:
The right cooling solution is often specified and chosen during the server room design phase of many projects. It is subsequent events that lead to operational issues. Even in a well-designed server room or datacentre facility, there will always be the need for adequate environmental temperature and humidity monitoring. There are several manufacturers who specialise in this type of system and at Server Room Environments we provide a complete server room design and installation service for the manufacturers we work with.
These types of environmental monitoring systems can be connected via the IT network to a DCIM (datacentre infrastructure management) package and/or a BEMS (building energy management system). Alerts and alarms need to be configured for pre-set thresholds and response plans formulated to ensure that any changes in ambient temperatures are formally investigated by on-site staff and your local air conditioning and HVAC maintenance company.
The problem of how to efficiently cool server rooms and datacentres is become more complex. Today’s IT environment can include a mixture of IT servers including high density racks leading to ‘hot-spots’ within racks and spread throughout a server environment. Edge computing will increase the complexity of the problem using remote compute facilities that may be more exposed to external ambient temperatures.