Some Data Centers Fail to Take Advantage of New ASHRAE Temperature Guidelines

Updated guidelines from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) now allow a wider band range for computer operation—from 64.4  F to 80.6 F—and the guidelines apply to both new and legacy equipment. According to Mark Evanko, principal engineer at BRUNS-PAK, equipment manufacturers are building computers that are more efficient and that can run at higher temperatures, even up to 90 F or higher at the inlet. But a good number of data centers are resisting the higher operating temperatures despite energy savings.

Paul Mihm, executive vice president, technical services group, at Rubicon notes that some forward-looking data centers are going to higher temperatures, but many others are more risk averse and prefer to adhere to older rules that call for cooler temperatures at the high range. Co-location centers tend to be more adventurous, and many are working to get their leases revised so that they can run hotter. Leases typically include service-level agreements about temperature and humidity, along with monetary penalties when equipment goes out of range. However, co-location facilities often have more than one copy of any data set. In such cases, a computer malfunction that brings a system down would be serious but not catastrophic.

By contrast, enterprise data centers, such as banks, insurance companies, and other financial businesses, are the most leery of operating at higher temperatures. Synchronous data backup lowers risk, but managers of these businesses have the view that they can never risk going down. Mihm says that if the management team can be convinced that higher temperatures are worth a small amount of risk, then a window of revenue-savings opportunity can be thrown open.

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