Is it hot in here?

by TJ Ciccone
29 April 2014

During a recent RagingWire data center tour, a potential client asked, “Is it hot in here?” Much to everyone’s surprise, the tour director smiled as he answered, “Yes, yes it is.” The reason behind the tour director’s happiness goes much deeper than you might think.

Water Cooled Chillers - RagingWire Data CentersWalking into a RagingWire Data Center, you may notice something unlike most other data centers - it’s certain spots. By utilizing extensive air flow analysis, employing a top-notch operations team, and adopting the 2011 ASHRAE TC9.9 guidelines for higher end temperatures, RagingWire is leading the way in creating a more energy efficient data center environment. It’s still a comfortable place to work. It’s just more energy efficient than 5-10 years ago.

Though no global data center temperature standard exists, in 2011 ASHRAE published an update to its whitepaper titled, “Thermal Guidelines for Data Center Processing Environments.” This guideline raised the recommended high-end temperature range from 77°F to 80.6°F, and raised the allowed high-end to reach 89.6F. Still, many data center operators have failed to embrace the broader, more environmentally friendly guidelines. Why?

Server and other electronic equipment suppliers have embraced the TC9.9 guidelines for years and most warranty their equipment to meet the new specifications. The problem exists with outdated data centers or vintage computing equipment that require lower temperatures, and fear of changing current operating parameters. According to a 2013 Uptime Institute Survey of more than 1,000 data centers globally, nearly half of all data centers reported operating at 71-75°F. The next largest segment, from 65-70°F accounted for 37% of all data centers surveyed!

Why does RagingWire operate at these higher temperatures? It all comes down to one small, three-letter acronym, PUE. PUE, or Power Usage Effectiveness, is a measure of the data center IT load vs. the total power consumption including mechanical and electrical load.

In some cases, with cooling accounting for up to 50% of the data center load, reducing the amount of consumption will lead to positive change in critical facility PUE. By some estimates, every 1°F increase in server inlet temperature can lead to a 4-5% savings in energy costs.

But let’s put some money where our math is: If you operate a facility with a PUE of 1.4, and your total IT load is 1MW, increasing your server inlet temperature just 1°F can lower your annual energy consumption by over 600,000kWh per year!

By achieving a lower design PUE, RagingWire Data Centers captures significant savings, and is able to pass these savings on to its customers. This allows retail and wholesale data center clients the ability to operate in a world-class facility with a small-world footprint. Lowering operating costs and resource consumption, without a reduction in service is usually the kind of undertaking that makes a Board of Directors stand up and applaud. And it can be as simple as ticking up that thermostat.

TJ Ciccone

Manager of Critical Facilities Commissioning