Why water is not always the best temperature monitoring system
Tuesday, Jul 23rd 2013

As the costs related to running air conditioning units rise, many data centers are turning to alternative temperature monitoring techniques, including water. However, this method is not always the best way to guarantee a set computer room temperature.

Companies have become more concerned about rising electricity usage in data center environments, with cooling mechanisms frequently being targeted for efficiency gains. As a result, many have turned to water and other alternative temperature monitoring techniques to keep data centers at ideal conditions at all times. For instance, Google has reported that by using water-based cooling and other non-legacy methods, the company has made its data centers 50 percent more energy efficient than the standard facility.

"We take advantage of local conditions and use free cooling at all of our data centers," Google said on its website about its data centers. "Avoiding the need for mechanical chillers is the largest opportunity for energy and cost savings."

Google is not the only organization to utilize water as a central data center commodity. According to early reports, the new data center being built by the National Security Agency in Bluffdale, Utah, will use 1.7 million gallons of water a day to keep 100,000 square feet of hardware cool.

When water-based cooling goes wrong
Although Google and others have touted the environmental benefits of using water for data center temperature monitoring, the new NSA facility illustrates why this technique is not always ideal. In this instance, the government agency's data center will likely overtax already depleted water resources. TreeHugger reported that the facility will account for 1 percent of all water used in the area. As a result of its construction, Bluffdale municipal officials have started looking at alternative sources of water.

One of the key reasons why the new NSA data center's water cooling plan is "environmentally appalling," according to TreeHugger, is because that region is currently beset by drought. The latest statistics from the U.S. Drought Monitor show that most of Utah is currently in the grips of a moderate to severe drought, and that the state has been abnormally dry for the past 12 months. Utah is far from alone too, as the state is currently one of 15 dealing with similar or worse drought conditions.

Why temperature monitoring equipment is more sustainable
While water-based cooling helps data centers in states like Georgia that have a more abundant supply, such a system is not ideal in states like Utah in which already scarce water is becoming increasingly rare. Instead of using water, data center operators with facilities in drought-stricken geographies should utilize temperature monitoring equipment. Google noted that servers can withstand temperatures of up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and turning up the thermostat can lead to enormous cost savings.

This is risky, though, as raising the computer room temperature even slightly increases the odds of servers becoming too hot and breaking down. To make sure this doomsday scenario does not come to fruition, data center managers should leverage temperature monitoring equipment such as a temperature sensor. That way, staff can maintain effective oversight of internal conditions at any time and from any location.