Should you warm up your data center? First, weigh the costs
A recent survey shows data center operators are gradually moving to warmer data centers –- at lower costs.
Data center administrators, more than most IT managers, deal in trade-offs: they keep an eye on the cost of efficiency and weigh energy spent against peformance. One dial on the dashboard they pay close attention to is the temperature in the data center as they look to deliver performance at a reasonable cost.
According to a recent Computerworld report, the General Services Administration has recommended raising data center temperatures from 72 degrees Fahrenheit to as high as 80 degrees F. For every additional degree of temperature in a data center’s server inlet space, GSA said, it can save 4 percent to 5 percent in costs, according to the Computerworld article.
Those numbers square with 2008 recommendations by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, which put the recommended temperature of data centers between 64.4 F degrees and 80.6 degrees F, along with a caveat that staying within that range does not ensure the data center is operating at top energy efficiency.
So, given the GSA and industry guidelines and caveats, what is the trend line on temperature ranges preferred by most data center operators?
According to a recent survey by the Uptime Institute, few data centers are being managed anywhere near the GSA limits. About half of more than 1,000 data centers from around the world are keeping the temperature in a spring-like range of 71-75 degrees F, accoring to the Computerworld report.
The survey did pick up a small surge toward hotter, low-cost environments, with 7 percent of data center operators keeping temperatures above 75 degrees, a jump from only 3 percent the previous year. At the same time, fewer operators are maintaining data center temperatures at the lower end of the ASHRAE range: only 6 percent compared to 15 percent in 2011.
And if you do decide to turn up the data center thermostat, it pays to go slow, Computerworld reported. "In order to implement hotter (temps), you need to do it gradually, and make sure you're not causing problems in other parts of the data center," said Uptime Institute content director Matt Stansberry.