Five key steps to take to make sure your data centre is ready for the next 40C plus heatwave

Optimisation specialist EkkoSense reveals learnings from its analysis of the real-time status of thousands of data centre racks during the heatwave.

With the latest UK heatwave coming to an end this week, data centre performance specialist EkkoSense has identified five steps that operations teams can take to ensure that they are ready as they can be when the next 40C plus event occurs.

According to EkkoSense’s Chief Technology and Innovation Officer, Dr. Stu Redshaw: “this Summer’s record temperatures clearly put data centres and their associated infrastructure under pressure. From our own perspective at EkkoSense, where we are able to monitor the real-time status of thousands of racks across facilities of all sizes, it was significant that we could detect hardly any significant thermal performance anomalies in data centres that had already benefited from cooling optimisation. Indeed, we barely saw more than a 1C variation within fully-optimised rooms.

“Where there were high profile heat-related issues, these invariably stemmed from thermal performance failures outside of the data centre. Key reasons given by operators in these cases included the simultaneous failure of multiple, redundant cooling systems, as well as cooler units having top operate above their stated design limits. What these kind of incidents illustrate is the challenge data centre operators face when they can’t guarantee the performance of their external cooling infrastructure. They may be running an n+1 facility but, if two cooling units go offline at the same time, you’re quickly moving towards n+2 conditions.”

With the likelihood of extremely hot days increasing, organisations need to be prepared for such events. The good news is that there are steps that data centre operations teams can take to ensure that, when the next 40C plus event occurs, they are ready. Here’s EkkoSense’s five key recommendations:

1.Conduct a pre-Summer high temperature incident audit across all your data centre sites –Taking a detailed high temperature incident survey audit across all sites is essential, analysing not only your data centre facilities but also all your external cooling plant and other infrastructure resources and ensuring they are optimally maintained. This will require close co-operation between IT and Facilities Management teams.

2.Learn from this Summer’s heatwaves – with record-breaking 40C+ temperatures, any data gathered during this unique high ambient temperature UK weather event should prove invaluable. Despite all the discussions around Climate Change, very few operators actually considered its potential impact on their data centres, with 35C still baked into specifications as an uppermost likely operating condition. These standards now need to be reset, with July 2022 serving as the extreme template. The work needed to effect this change will need to start immediately.

3.Action this Year! – Summer 2023 will come round quickly enough, so it’s important that any remedial cooling infrastructure maintenance or other improvements necessary following the heatwave are carried out as quickly as possible. This is particularly important given the many supply chain issues that are currently impacting hardware and parts orders.

4.Avoid ‘heat of the moment’ actions – extensive real-time data shows that it’s important not to interfere with an already-optimised data centre when you’re being impacted by external failure – you’ll only make things worse. Simply adjusting set-points or re-arranging floor tiles won’t make any difference at this stage.

5.Create a ‘Heatwave Grab Pack’ for things to do – develop a readily-accessible checklist that’s immediately available for when the next heatwave arrives (and it will). This should detail things to do (and not do), key contact details, pre-agreed next-step mitigation plans, as well as any plans for emergency cooling.

As ever, close dialogue between IT and Facilities Management teams is critical in ensuring the success of any data centre operator’s heatwave mitigation plans. Following these five recommendations will help to give your team a head start!

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