New PUE dashboards could spur adoption of more temperature monitoring
Wednesday, Mar 19th 2014

Recent efforts by eBay and Facebook to raise awareness of data center energy efficiency could lead others in the industry to utilize more humidity and temperature monitoring equipment to lower annual electricity bills.

Earlier this month, Facebook announced that it was making its data center factor oversight dashboards available to the general public through GitHub. The code enables facilities to track power usage effectiveness, water usage effectiveness and humidity in real time, and by open sourcing the code for this project - Rackspace also contributed to this effort - Facebook hopes to spur more conversation and insight in the data center space regarding the use of resources.

Forbes contributor Heather Clancy noted that Facebook is not the only company to create proprietary resource tracking systems, as eBay embarked on a similar effort last year. As electricity usage in data centers becomes more of an issue for cost-conscious facility owners, data centers are scrambling to develop new methods to oversee energy usage and lower electricity bills.

"Because measuring this sort of thing in a way that matters to the financial team or business division heads is still a pretty new concept, both companies were forced to develop their own measurement approaches to tease out the right information - both created management dashboards to express and visualize the data in ways that would help them make decisions," Clancy wrote.

What can data centers do with this data?
While the recent efforts made by Facebook and eBay may go a long way toward helping data center operators become more aware of energy usage, the dashboards do not by themselves provide server rooms with the means by which they can achieve these savings. For that to occur, facility operators may need to adopt next-generation humidity and temperature monitoring equipment such as the SuperGoose II from ITWatchDogs.

Within many typical data centers, a lot of electricity is not for servers and routers but rather for auxiliary equipment like air conditioning units. In the past, data center operators were concerned about uptime over just about everything else, and as a result would keep the server room temperature as cold as 55 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent equipment from overheating. However, for every one degree F above 55 that a data center is kept at on a consistent basis, energy costs can be lowered by up to 5 percent annually, according to Energy Star.

Still, that does not mean that data center operators could crank up the heat and just wait for the savings to come, as this tactic could lead to disaster. After all, a server room temperature that is too high could cause hardware to overheat and break down, leading to costly unplanned downtime. According to a December 2013 study from the Ponemon Institute, outages cost a data center about $7,900 a minute, with the average downtime incident lasting around 86 minutes. As a result, no data center can afford to completely abandon its continuity efforts just to lower energy costs.

"Given the fact that today's data centers support more critical, interdependent devices and IT systems than ever before, most would expect a rise in the cost of an unplanned data center outage compared to 2010. However, the 41 percent increase was higher than expected," said Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute. "This increase in cost underscores the importance for organizations to make it a priority to minimize the risk of downtime that can potentially cost thousands of dollars per minute."

These twin pressures leave data centers stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place. On one hand, facility operators want to raise the server room temperature to lower electricity bills. However, being too liberal in this regard may lead to costly unplanned downtime. In order to strike the right balance, data centers should adopt next-generation temperature monitoring equipment. Armed with these tools, data center owners and operators can always keep a close eye on server room conditions to ensure that conditions are always at the perfect equilibrium.

Humidity's role in data center energy usage
While using tools like the WatchDog 15 for temperature monitoring can go a long way toward reducing monthly energy bills, some data centers may need to take their efforts a step further and embrace next-generation humidity monitoring.

According to statistics cited by The Data Center Journal, the ideal relative humidity range for a server room is between 45 and 55 percent. However, maintaining this range is far easier said than done, as temperature fluctuations can dramatically affect both ideal and observed humidity levels. Still, ensuring proper humidity levels is vitally important. If it's too high, condensation may form on hardware that could lead to erosion and short circuiting. On the other hand, a server room that is too dry could cause static electricity to build up.

To ensure proper humidity levels are always met, some data centers may be utilizing out-of-date solutions like commercial-grade dehumidifiers that require lots of electricity. By investing in advanced humidity monitoring technology, data centers operators can keep tabs on server room humidity levels without worrying that their efforts are draining resources.