Innovative buildings make data center temperature monitoring easier
Friday, Mar 22nd 2013

For data center operators, temperature monitoring has long been one of their top ways to combat a facility's main concern: overheating. Servers, if left unchecked, will generate so much heat that the temperature in the storage location will increase to the point that nodes and other vital server components will break down, meaning that data centers are, in essence, their own worst enemy.

To combat this issue, facility managers turned to air conditioning units to keep server room conditions sufficiently cool. According to Energy Star, a joint program between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, data centers would be kept at around 55 degrees F. However, keeping a data center this cool requires operators to use enormous amounts of energy.

This often presented data center operators with a catch-22 situation in which there was no ideal solution. On one hand, data centers that are too cold will make annual energy bills costly. On the other hand, servers rooms that are too warm will require constant repairs because of equipment failures. To address this seemingly insurmountable problem, facilities are increasingly turning to more unique temperature monitoring setups.

Turning data centers into hot water
Swedish data center company Bahnhof will be channeling its excess server heat into hot water tanks at its new proposed facility. The organization's latest project, according to Wired, is transforming a 130-square-foot old gas plant in Stockholm into a five-level location in which each floor is a server room. Instead of using air conditioning units to keep all of the equipment in the 35-megawatt facility cool, the excess heat generated by the servers will be used to heat up water. That hot water will then be sold to Stockholm authorities, thereby ensuring that Bahnhof is contributing to municipal energy supplies.

"All this heat generated in the data center will be pumped out by a heat pump in the district heating system," said Bahnhof CEO Jon Karlung, according to Wired.

This temperature monitoring system, according to Karlung, will ensure that the new data center has as low a carbon footprint as possible. Since the facility will not be using as much electricity, operators can rest easy knowing that less fossil fuel needs to be burned to keep the location operational.

"I think it's an elegant mix: culture and technology and business," Karlung said. "They kind of strengthen each other."

Additional temperature monitoring techniques
While the Stockholm facility's temperature monitoring technique is energy efficient and effective, it is not a realistic alternative for many data centers. Bahnhof is building the location with energy efficiency in mind, which is a luxury most existing managers do not have. To better manage costs at legacy data centers, business development executive Jack Pouchet offered a few energy efficiency tips in a recent Data Center Knowledge article.

One key tip that Pouchet said could help data center operators is to use temperature monitoring equipment. For example, Energy Star reported that for every 1 degree F warmer a server room is, facilities can reduce their energy bills by up to 5 percent. However, even incremental changes in server temperature put a location at greater risk. But, by using a temperature sensor to accurately keep track of internal conditions, facility operators can ensure that server rooms never get too hot and that energy bills are sufficiently reduced.

"Take temperature, humidity and airflow management to the next level through containment, intelligent controls and economization," he wrote. "From an efficiency standpoint, one of the primary goals of preventing hot and cold air from mixing is to maximize the temperature of the return air to the cooling unit."

Additional energy saving advice from Pouchet included using more efficient equipment, utilizing virtualization to reduce the number of servers needed and optimizing infrastructure.