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Taking A Look At The Latest In Environmental Monitoring
All data center administrators wish they could watch over their equipment 24/7. Murphy’s Law dictates that if anything can go wrong, it will, and usually in the middle of the night when the cavalry’s asleep. Fortunately, there’s no need to set up living quarters in the data center, thanks to a variety of environmental monitoring tools that help administrators keep tabs on environment variables such as temperature, humidity, power, etc. Some tools can even alert administrators to out-of-control conditions via pager, email, fax, or IM.

Marketplace Trends

The protection of corporate data, housed in enterprise data centers, is of prime importance to CIOs and data center admins. New regulatory requirements now mandate that enterprises take steps to protect their information resources, especially sensitive personal data. Under the umbrella of data protection and management lies the need to protect expensive IT equipment. And effective protection begins with effective monitoring of environmental variables.

The need to perform environmental monitoring will increase as data center technologies evolve. Many data centers are embracing blade servers and greatly increasing the density of computing power administrators manage. Greater computing power is a boon, but it comes at a price: increased heat generation and greater demands placed on cooling and HVAC systems. In these environments, the need for timely environmental monitoring information is absolutely critical.

Yankee Group defines the infrastructure management marketplace as a $1.38 billion subset of the total storage management software marketplace. Included in this marketplace are basic tasks such as configuration and monitoring. However, Yankee Group predicts that, starting back in 2004, this market segment will contract to $1.27 billion in 2009 as storage equipment manufacturers bundle infrastructure management capabilities with their equipment.

Let’s take a look at a few tools designed to help admins keep tabs on the important environmental variables in their data centers.

Data Aire

Data Aire Intelli-DART Control System

Alerts you to problems by email, fax, download, or phone


Data Aire’s Intelli-DART control system collects information from environmental control equipment and delivers it to users via various communications methods, including phone, pager, fax, and email. The unit, equipped with a Pentium CPU and 64MB of SDDRAM memory, can manage communications from up to 32 independent zones and 260 cooling units. Reports and alarms can be delivered simultaneously to multiple channels and phone numbers; when making a telephone call, the system uses voice synthesis technology to deliver voice messages of both routine and nonroutine conditions.

Intelli-DART can be configured to deliver reports in a variety of formats and frequencies. Also, administrators can connect to the unit via any Web browser or touch-tone phone and configure reporting and other configuration settings. Reports can also, in addition to the aforementioned delivery methods, be downloaded from the unit. And changes to zones or cooling units can be done via the unit using any Web browser.


BayTech RES Series Sensor Hubs

A variety of environmental sensor hubs to meet your monitoring needs


Admins can monitor environment variables using BayTech’s RES Series Sensor hubs, which include the RES Pro, RES Pro Plus, RES2, RES2 Plus, RES2 Plus 2, and RES2 Plus I models. These hubs serve as data aggregators for BayTech’s wide array of sensors designed to detect humidity, airflow, temperature, security, voltage, and water. The cable form factor sensors come in a variety of lengths, from 15 to 100 feet, so administrators have plenty of flexibility in terms of physical placement.

Hubs feature two to four sensor and serial ports, internal Web and remote servers, password protection, email notifications and SNMP traps, and support for SNMP polling and DHCP. Connectivity to external computing resources can be done via HTTP, Telnet, RS-232, or SNMP.

Geist Manufacturing

Geist Manufacturing RacSense Environmental Appliance

Six internal plus up to 16 remote sensors provide monitoring flexibility


If you need to collect environmental monitoring data from multiple sensors using a convenient horizontal form factor, Geist Manufacturing’s RacSense Environmental appliance may meet your needs. The unit is data center ready with a 17-inch vertical/horizontal rackmount and features connectivity for up to 16 remote environmental sensors via RJ connections.

The RacSense Environmental also includes six internal environmental sensors for monitoring temperature, humidity, airflow, sound level, light level, and I/O ports. The temperature sensor range, for example, spans from -67 to 175 degrees Fahrenheit. Supported applications and protocols include DHCP, HTML, HTTPS, ICMP, SNMP, Static IP, SMTP, TCP/IP, Telnet, UDP, and XML.

If you need a smaller form factor, the company’s RSMINI supports up to 16 remote sensors but only includes one internal (temperature) sensor.

Information Support Concepts

Information Support Concepts SensorHub Temperature and Humidity Sensors

SensorHub Temperature Sensor: $289; SensorHub Plus Temperature and Humidity Sensors: $389

Environmental monitoring in a small, discreet form factor


The small SensorHub sensors from Information Support Concepts, aka ISC, provide for critical monitoring of temperature and humidity in server rack cabinets. The SensorHub product line includes two models, the Sensor-Hub Temperature Sensor and the SensorHub Plus Temperature and Humidity Sensor. Both models don’t require any software installation and can be configured using an internal Web server.

Other features include four user-defined threshold settings, email notifications, messaging of SNMP traps to two destinations, SNMP polling and DHCP, and password protection. The units are also 0U rack-mountable, so they can easily be added to the server rack cabinets where environmental monitoring is required. The unit dimensions provide the flexibility to either mount the units on the rack itself or on a desktop. ISC also provides a one-year limited warranty and provides free technical support via email.

ATEN Technology

ATEN Technology GN0116 Guardian Over the NET


Nearly unlimited flexibility via daisy-chaining


Taiwan’s ATEN Technology manufactures and markets the Altusen Guardian Over the NET remote monitoring device, designed to provide unlimited flexibility for remote environment control and monitoring of data room equipment via the daisy-chaining of up to 255 additional units using RS-485 jacks. This daisy-chaining of additional GN0116 units can provide management for up to 4,096 digital controllers.

As with other equipment in this roundup, the GN0116 provides users with the capability of remotely controlling and monitoring equipment using any Web browser or the Serial Server Console. In fact, the unit’s firmware can even be upgraded via the Internet.

Environment settings, such as temperature, humidity, voltage, and current can be set via individually controlled ports. RJ-45 and RS-232 ports provide connectivity via LAN or modem; the GN0116 also features two digital input sensors and 16 digital output sensors. Security is provided with the implementation of two user levels, Administrator and User.

Other Leading Companies

MGE UPS Systems' Environment Sensor for Network Management cards is a small environmental monitoring device that can be used for remote monitoring of temperature and humidity (www.mgeups.com). The Environmental Sensor device can be remotely accessed via a Web browser or an SNMP-based network management system and is compatible with all MGE UPS ranges.

Avtech Software’s line of RoomAlert hardware environmental monitoring and alerting devices all retail for under $500 and provide monitoring of temperature, humidity, power, water, smoke, and unauthorized entry (www.roomalert.com). RoomAlert devices can provide notifications via email, pager, PDA, cell phone, IM, broadcast, and console update and are all available as optional rack-mounted models.

IT Watchdogs’ WeatherGoose environmental monitoring unit retails for $399 and includes a built-in Web server and internal sensors for monitoring temperature, humidity, airflow, light level, and sound level (www.itwatchdogs.com). The unit also contains three analog input ports and an internal five-port serial port hub for adding additional remote sensors. Alerts are delivered via internal Web pages, email, or paging alerts. WeatherGoose is sold in a 19-inch rack-mountable form factor.

Chatsworth Products recently released a remote infrastructure management system called the RIM-600 (www.chatsworth.com). The units feature support for up to eight external sensors and provide monitoring for temperature, power, humidity, smoke, or water. The unit can be configured to work with security devices such as IP cameras, door sensors, and motion detectors and also features a battery backup, internal Web server, and automatic configuration of sensors. Notifications can be provided via email, phone, pager, fax, or SNMP.

Early Warning Makes A Difference

Environmental monitoring is an essential tool in the arsenal of the data center administrator. Timely warning of an environment variable exceedance can save you precious time and money and prevent the possibility of equipment damage and data loss. Today’s highly regulated business environment requires that enterprises do all they can to prevent data loss. Environmental monitoring is a fundamental component of an overall data protection strategy.

by Sixto Ortiz Jr.