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Guidelines Open the Door to More Free Data Center Cooling

No matter where you are on the planet, chances are you can be taking advantage of more “free” cooling than you currently are – in many cases, it’s all the cooling you’ll need.

That’s the upshot of the new Free Cooling maps published by The Green Grid, which take into account some new data center classifications published last year by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).

The Green Grid is a non-profit group whose mission is to improve the resource efficiency of data center and business computing ecosystems. As chairman and president of the group, I can assure you it’ll be well worth your while to take a hard look at the new maps.

ASHRAE issues guidelines for “recommended” and “allowable” temperature and humidity of data centers. It previously published four categories of data centers, depending on the type of equipment in each, demand and so on. Last year, the group added two more categories – A3 and A4 – to reflect data centers that have less strict requirements for temperature and humidity specifications, and can thus allow wider ranges of environmental conditions. These new classes allow dry bulb temperatures as high as 45 degrees C (113 degrees F), and humidity as high as 90 percent for short periods of time.

It’s up to data center operators to examine the classifications to find out where their data center belongs but, if you find your data center can tolerate the specs defined by these new categories, the payoff can be great.

Deutsche Bank, for example, is achieving nearly 100 percent free cooling at its New York-area data center through a combination of facilities innovations and a willingness to operate IT equipment in the expanded environmental ranges. (As we’ve covered previously, free cooling means using outside air to cool your data center, using the economizer mode that’s now built into most data center air conditioning systems.)

As the Green Grid maps show, the bank is far from alone. In 75 percent of North America, data centers classified as A2 can use free cooling for more than 8,500 hours per year while in Europe the figure is 99 percent. Given there are 8,760 hours in a 365-day year, you can see the savings are significant – even huge.

If you can deal with the temperatures and humidity outlines in the A3 category, the results are even more dramatic: 97 percent of North America can use free cooling all year, along with 99 percent of Europe and 91 percent of Japan, including Tokyo.

By using free cooling you’ll likely save energy and water while increasing productivity and  reducing carbon emissions. You’ll also save money by reducing power costs associated with air conditioning while improving the reliability of your data center, since you’ll have fewer components that are likely to fail. There’s a lot to like.

To learn more about the new ASHRAE guidelines and The Green Grid maps, check out The Green Grid white paper, “Updated Air-Side Free Cooling Maps: The Impact of ASHRAE 2011 Allowable Ranges.”

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