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Intel tells data centre customers that 100 degrees isn’t too hot

Date: 24th February 2012

Intel, the world’s largest maker of computer chips, is telling its data centre customers they can turn up the heat.  Most server and storage computers sit in rooms cooled to a brisk 64 to 69 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 21 C), an effort to avoid hot spots that might cause equipment to malfunction. All that air conditioning contributes to electricity costs of $26 billion a year. The facilities use 1.5% of the planet’s power, and that’s set to double by 2014, Intel says.

By using new software and hardware to get a more detailed picture of what’s hot and what’s not, data centres can spread work around to different computers to keep them cool, says Jay Kyathsandra, an Intel marketing manager. That approach, together with a range of other technologies sold by Intel, could let technicians eventually turn the heat up past 100 degrees. The challenge is convincing customers, which count on servers to keep their businesses running, that the approach is safe.

Keysource says: There is much debate going on about improving efficiency by not running data centres so cold. The thinking is that by raising the temperature up from the traditional 19-21 degrees centigrade to 25-26 degrees or beyond, free cooling systems can operate for more hours without the need for additional mechanical cooling.

Elevating server inlet temperatures is a positive step forward and this is supported by the new ASHRAE guidelines, but this needs to be understood in context. If the aim is to improve data centre energy efficiency, a well-designed data centre cooling system should be able to keep a data centre at 22 degrees centigrade for the majority of the year based on UK average temperatures without any mechanical cooling.

Therefore, the benefit of raising the temperature in the data centre only really starts to show when the outside temperature is too warm to maintain 22 degrees centigrade with just free cooling. Only then does it become worthwhile to consider raising the inlet temperatures.


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