Importance of including UPS batteries in computer room temperature calculations
Wednesday, May 7th 2014

When data center operators first take steps to ensure that the computer room temperature is always at an ideal level, chances are good that their primary concerns center around servers and other mission-critical endpoints causing the server room temperature to spike. But, the batteries that support uninterrupted power supplies can be just as damaging to a facility, and should be overseen with remote monitors.

In a recent article appearing in Data Center Knowledge, Scott Baer, a marketing manager at Emerson Network Power, wrote that the batteries underpinning UPS systems are critical for ensuring that uptime is always maintained, but unfortunately many data centers do not pay enough attention to this variable. Not only do batteries often have a lifespan that is a third less than what is sometimes advertised by a manufacturer, but he noted that even one battery out of six that goes bad can lead to an outage. Using remote monitors to look after batteries can noticeably reduce the frequency of downtime, but still many data center operators do not put enough emphasis on battery oversight and maintenance.

"With robust remote monitoring technology, individuals responsible for managing the critical infrastructure, yet aren't necessarily experts in the varied technologies present in their complex data centers, are able to augment their staff," Baer wrote. "Having embedded, monitoring capabilities also gives you the ability to improve MTBF [Mean Time Before Failure] and Mean Time To Repair (MTTR). Improving MTTR is possible with the right monitoring technology because continuous connectivity allows infrastructure experts working from a knowledge base to deliver the highest level of support."

Temperature's role in battery and data center maintenance
When it comes to overseeing batteries, data center operators should be especially concerned about their effect on the server room temperature. If the facility has lithium-ion batteries, then it may be susceptible to fires. According to the Energy Department's Office of Science, these kinds of batteries present a fire risk because part of their design includes a critical middle layer that is often coated in a flammable substance. This segment is critical for ensuring the movement of ions that lets this battery hold a charge and dispense energy, but sometimes it can lead to the creation of flames.

"A problem arises if the separator becomes damaged or destroyed, causing the electrodes to short-circuit and overheat, initiating a chemical reaction between the electrolyte and the electrode," according to Patrick Glynn from the DOE. "Such a short circuit can trigger a 'thermal runaway' whereby the increase in temperature of the cell accelerates the chemical reaction, adding to the heat in turn and leading to the combustion of battery materials."

In order to help mitigate the fire risk that batteries can pose, data center operators can leverage temperature monitoring solutions. When facility managers adopt IT environmental monitoring equipment from ITWatchDogs, they get the ability to easily and accurately keep tabs on all hardware present in the data center. This way, should a battery begin to overheat or otherwise malfunction, facility managers can quickly spring into action to prevent disaster. Whether they are used to keep tabs on batteries, servers or any other piece of equipment, environmental monitoring solutions from ITWatchDogs are critical for ensuring that the computer room temperature stays at the right levels all of the time.