How warm can you run your datacenter?

How warm can you run your datacenter?

Summary: Intel wants you to start to consider running your datacenters almost 30 degrees warmer than you are running them now, citing the huge potential energy savings of such a move.

SHARE:

If you ask Intel, they will tell you that you don't need to keep your datacenter as cool as you probably do, with most operators keeping the air feed into their facilities under 70 degrees. But according to Intel, cranking up the heat won't have a negative impact on your hardware and will generate significant energy savings in your datacenter.

Talking about higher operating temperatures and load balancing technologies that will allow datacenters to run with air temperatures over 100 degrees, Intel is quick to point out the huge energy saving that would accompany such a change, noting that an average increase of only 9 degrees in datacenters worldwide would save an amount of energy equivalent to that used by countries such as Spain or South Africa in a month. But the barriers to adopting high temperature datacenters are significant, ranging from a long established pattern that ‘cooler is better" to the fact that most datacenter hardware providers don't warranty their equipment at the higher temperatures that Intel is proposing.

To address these concerns Intel is doing what companies convinced they are right should; they are running their New Mexico datacenter at an average temperature of 92 degrees, which they say is resulting in a savings of approximately 67 percent when compared to traditional temperature operating costs. And they are negotiating with major datacenter hardware vendors to certify their systems to operate at these higher temperatures. This will also require that the suppliers of other hardware components used within datacenter hardware certify their chips and components to operate at these higher temperatures, so it's not as simple and straightforward a process as one might think. It's also one, that in the short term at least, will likely result in higher costs for the hardware components certified for higher operating temperatures.

But given the small CAPEX cost when compared to OPEX of datacenter hardware, an initially higher purchase price isn't likely to deter datacenter operators if there is a demonstrable benefit.  Now finding employees who want to work in 100 degree plus datacenter equipment rooms is another story altogether...

Topics: Storage, CXO, Data Centers, Hardware, Intel

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

23 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • What about the people...

    So here's one of the big things that everyone forgets about when suggestions are made for running data centers at higher temperatures, what about the people working inside them? If you are running your data center at 90-100 degrees at the cold air side, imagine what the temperature will be on the hot aisle. With some of the high density environments we see it is already becoming uncomfortable to work in the hot aisle, now imagine hot aisle temps well into the 130-150 range. Who is going to want or even be able to work in that environment?
    evan@...
    • RE: How warm can you run your datacenter?

      @evan@...

      You have a good point there. I personally think that 90-100 degrees in the hottest part of the building is the absolute maximum that a person can reasonably be expected to work in for a long period of time.
      Lerianis10
    • RE: How warm can you run your datacenter?

      @evan@... DCs require very few people to operate and many of those people are remote. For the few local folks, you can always put them in an AC'd office right next door. Actual hands-on in a DC these days is very limited.
      bbell1
      • RE: How warm can you run your datacenter?

        @bbell1

        Sure you've got your remote admins but there's often migrations taking place, with legacy servers being replaced.

        Besides not every company operates in a full fledged data-center, they often have one integrated in their own building and outsource for different services.
        subjectzero
  • RE: How warm can you run your datacenter?

    Happy mediums usually apply. Moving temps up to 75 or 78 would probably still save a significant amount of energy over what some currently run at. The problem is, if you do have a cooing failure, having temps closer to hot point means less time to get a solution in place. Raising the temp a few degrees and monitoring, then repeating as needed seems to make some sense to me.
    jkohut
  • RE: How warm can you run your datacenter?

    Fine for the CPU, terrible for the disk drive and everything else.
    depeters22
    • RE: How warm can you run your datacenter?

      @depeters22

      Guess again. My laptop computer (which is on near 24/7) has the temperature rountinely be over 130F for it.

      That is not bad for the disk drives in the slightest, in fact most are warrantied to work at up to 160F for short periods of time.
      Lerianis10
      • RE: How warm can you run your datacenter?

        @Lerianis10 <br><br>Just because a disk drive can work in conditions up to 160F doesn't make it advisable.
        Companies can't afford to replace every server with Intel's solution. There are usually legacy servers in the mix. A data center has a huge volume of servers and they are not all identical therefore some may be able to take the heat and others may not.
        subjectzero
  • RE: How warm can you run your datacenter?

    Most data centers should be in a separate room that is available to a select few and the heat should be the less uncomfortable "dry heat" so the people issue should not be that big a deal in most places. Computers used to break in modest heat back in the day but don't now but the custom continues. I can tell the article was written from a warm climate location. How about a follow up about how cold a data center can be for the purpose of saving on heating bills?
    edkollin
  • RE: How warm can you run your datacenter?

    Okay, if it is 90 degrees in the room, how warm is it inside of the computer?
    HawaiiBound
    • RE: How warm can you run your datacenter?

      @HawaiiBound
      YEah That is the question. BIGGER FANS?
      davidmpaul
    • RE: How warm can you run your datacenter?

      @HawaiiBound

      +1
      subjectzero
  • Missing the DURATION of DataCenters operation for accurate comparison

    Article: "an average increase of only 9 degrees in datacenters worldwide would save an amount of energy equivalent to that used by countries such as Spain or South Africa in a month".

    If all these DataCenters need to run in 100 years to equate 1 month worth of energy of a medium size country, the saving is pretty much negligible.
    RelaxWalk
  • energy saving with different approach

    Its wont be pleasant for people working inside data center. intel need to come up with some other approach for energy saving.
    senthilarasu
  • Long-Term Effects

    I'm open to the possibility that the necessity of keeping data centers cool is an old wives' tale, but I want to be really sure. Is Intel saying that they have concrete, quantifiable data showing that running a data center at 92 degrees rather than 70 degrees has no negative implications over a period of years? Say, half a decade or so?
    ParrotHead_FL
  • What temps do you run your server room/datacenter at?

    I've been wondering about this. 68-72 degrees seems to be the most common range for temps. But even 75 degrees would result in savings.

    What are your thoughts on this?
    justthisguyyouknow
  • RE: How warm can you run your datacenter?

    Some hard drives warn at 60 degrees C, and shut down at 65 degrees C. You have a thermal range to operate semiconductors / components in. Squeezing the envelope will put you that much closer to failure.
    seanchurch
  • Hah!! Higher failure rates...

    ...means Intel can sell more replacement parts. In an era of stagnant sales for new machines, shrewd move by Intel to suggest this. Color my cynical, but....
    Techboy_z
    • Not just mechanical failures

      @techboy_z

      +1

      Like any IT guy wants to be stuck in an oven troubleshooting connectivity issues. Leave it to some high level marketing exec to come up with this one. This to me seems to create unsafe working conditions if your pouring sweat all over the devices that you are working on. Never mind those devices are live because users would be jumping all over IT if they took it offline to work on it in a place with reasonable temps.

      Generally when the data-center is warm, you start to panic. Why? Because the users will be calling soon...
      subjectzero
  • RE: How warm can you run your datacenter?

    A few years ago we had a primary A/C failure in a server room housing ~ 30 servers. Our 2ndary A/C and makeshift ventilation allowed to keep the average temperature from spiking above 80 F.

    I got to looking through our documentation for all of our IBM & Dell servers.. and both cases, the Manufacturers noted that [b]"housing the server in an environment where the ambient temperature for the servers rises above 85 F, would null and void all warranties included with the equipment."[/b]

    Could they ever prove it? I don't see how. Is that a CYA statement? Probably. Did we ever see a spike above 90 F? sure.

    ...just word to the wise
    UrNotPayingAttention