3 ways to improve data center cooling
Wednesday, Jan 4th 2017

Cooling a data center is often a highly resource-intensive process. According to a United States Data Center Energy Report (based on research conducted at several American universities), U.S. data centers consumed 626 billion liters of water in 2014 and were on track to surpass 660 billion liters by 2020.

This projected growth in water usage is easy enough to explain: Internet traffic is increasing, which is driving higher overall demand for data center services. Networking vendor Cisco has predicted that such traffic will surpass a zettabyte by the end of 2016 and then double again by the end of the decade.

Water and data center cooling

Heavy water usage is essential for keeping many data center facilities sufficiently cool. Cooling systems account for the bulk – as much as 80 percent, according to the above report – of all water consumption in data centers, and as such they represent a huge opportunity for savings.

In the years ahead, data center operators could be under mounting pressure to conserve more water, not only for simple economic reasons but also because water scarcity is widely perceived as a major contributor to geopolitical instability. However, rising spending on HVAC systems means that water reduction will have to come through efficiency gains around the data center.

A recent study from Research Beam projected the global HVAC market expanded at an 18.5 percent compound annual growth rate in 2015, surpassing 144 million units sold. Data center cooling was a key driver of this expansion. Moreover, cooling – via air conditioning and temperature controls – was estimated to account for 45 percent of all data center operating costs.

Making cooling more efficient

With massive water consumption and growing HVAC spending as the baselines, what can data center operators do to make their cooling processes more efficient? Modern environmental monitoring systems are a good place to start. They provide benefits such as:

1) Easy integration into electrical infrastructure
Reducing electricity-related expenditures is an essential step in containing cooling costs. Solutions from ITWatchDogs make it as easy as possible for you to integrate environmental sensors into your facility. Monitoring devices are available in multiple form factors in order to fit into today's increasingly crowded data centers. Plus, they can work with existing electrical outlets or via Power over Ethernet, the protocol that enables both power and data to be carried over the same Ethernet wire.

"A sudden increase in virtualized workloads can generate a double-digits spike in temperature."

2) Efficient monitoring via a web browser
Data center systems are volatile, with a sudden increase in virtualized workloads capable of generating double-digit spikes in temperature for some racks. This in turn dramatically increases the rates of equipment failure, as fans break, air conditioning units give out and servers overheat under the new workloads. The solution to this common problem is more active monitoring. By setting up equipment that has on-board sensors as well as inputs for external analog and digital sensors, data center managers can quickly find and resolve issues. Units can be monitored from anywhere using any web browser, without the need for proprietary software.

3) Timely notifications on many different conditions
Controlling data center cooling requires keeping tabs on a variety of conditions. Temperature, humidity, light, sound, air flow, power and water detection are all important factors to monitor in any facility. ITWatchDogs makes it straightforward to track all of these numbers. Furthermore, technicians can receive timely notifications via Simple Network Management Protocol, email and text message, along with live video feeds and neatly graphed summaries of environmental trends. Taken together, this wealth of information keeps everyone in the loop and ensures that no adverse developments slip past unnoticed.

A timely notification can alert technicians to data center issues.A timely notification can alert technicians to data center issues.

Other improvements to watch

Better monitoring is an essential step on the road to reigning in water consumption and in turn managing the overall costs of data center operations. Other innovations are also entering the picture, such as sophisticated heat sinks that can replace traditional forced-air cooling systems. Free air cooling and liquid cooling solutions have likewise become more common in recent years.

Cooling is a hot-button issue in data centers. Don't waste your time and money on letting preventable issues get the best of your operation. Contact ITWatchDogs today for more information on your options.