Data centres face cooling crisis

Businesses' demand for increasingly powerful computing means many data centres are struggling with dangerous levels of energy consumption

A data centre crisis is brewing as energy supply and cooling technology struggle to keep pace with businesses' insatiable demand for computing power.

Given the increasing use of high-density hardware such as multi-core processors and blade servers, excessive power and cooling demands could lead to a rise in server failures, according to Aperture Research Institute (ARI), a division of software company Aperture Technologies.

New research from ARI found 38 percent of data centres are already running at dangerous levels of power consumption, meaning they are at risk of failing due to a power shortfall.

According to analyst house Gartner, 50 percent of data centres will have insufficient power or cooling capacity to meet demand by 2008. The analyst predicts spending on power and cooling technology will exceed server spending this year.

Bill Clifford, chief executive of Aperture, said: "Many users are simply unaware of the dangers they are introducing to their data centres. There is an impending crisis."

Clifford said that in the past, cooling issues could be resolved in a matter of weeks as suppliers of cooling equipment could cope with demand. But with the increased demand, the lead time for new equipment can be up to 18 months, putting firms at risk of experiencing data centre downtime.

Clifford suggested the big leap in technology needed to solve the problem — likely to come from semiconductor firms such as Intel and AMD — won't happen for around five years.

Firms will therefore need to turn to technology that helps identify where data centres could reduce energy usage and better balance demand.

Aperture Technologies is about to launch its Vista capacity management software, which is designed to help businesses balance energy demand across their data centres.

"If organisations don't step up and address the issue today, the cost is going to continue to go up," Clifford warned.