Data centres must tackle thermal issues

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Many data centres are failing to get to grips with thermal issues, putting their facilities at risk, Vertiv’s Simon Brady, Head of Data Centre Optimisation, EMEA, has warned.

“When carrying out surveys, in 2017, I found thermal issues in virtually every case – in fact, it was the number one issue,” commented Brady. “It is rare for me to find a temperature underneath a raised floor anywhere near where it should be.” 

Simon Brady, Vertiv

Speaking to Mission Critical Power, Brady pointed out that there is a lack of knowledge in the sector, around cooling, and many data centre operators do not have an accurate picture of their facility’s thermal status. 

“With 29% of outages due to thermal issues, data centres need to improve their thermal strategy, commented Brady. “If equipment gets too hot, it can lead to thermal overload. It is not an equipment failure, per se, or a software issue, it is simply that part of the room is too warm. This is 100% preventable…Thermal management and general best practice in the white space is a huge issue.”

It is not just overheating that is posing a problem; many data centres are also over cooling, leading to wasted energy and higher costs. He pointed out that thermal utilisation in data centres is typically under 38%. “This stems from the design of the data centre from day one…There is a huge over-estimation of capacity,” added Brady.

Brady said that effective control and monitoring systems can help optimise the temperature and avoid ‘knee jerk reactions’. A lack of data can lead to either over cooling, or undercooling, if operators haven’t fully understood the issues in their data centre. 

“Data centres need to make a plan and tackle the small things such as blanking off; if you tackle the small things, it will enable you to deal with the bigger issues; to increase your temperatures, overall, in your cold aisle; raise chilled water temperatures on your chiller and implement free cooling. You cannot do these things until you have tackled the basics,” he concluded.

The full interview can be read in the next printed edition of Mission Critical Power (June 2018).

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