5 steps to prepare your data centre for the next heatwave

By EkkoSense
In preparation for the next heatwave, Optimisation Specialist EkkoSense has shared the findings of its data centre rack heatwave performance analysis

With the latest heatwave finally coming to an end, data centre performance specialist EkkoSense has identified five steps that operations teams can take to ensure that they are prepared for the next temperature spike.

“This summer’s record temperatures clearly put data centres and their associated infrastructure under pressure”, commented EkkoSense’s Chief Technology and Innovation Officer, Dr. Stu Redshaw

“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 to operate above their stated design limits”, explained Redshaw. 

“What these 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 increasing likelihood of more extreme temperatures to come, organisations need to be prepared. 

The good news is that there are steps that data centre operations teams can take to ensure that, when the next heatwave occurs, they are ready. 

EkkoSense’s five key recommendations for data centres

  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. A good survey involves 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 its record-breaking temperatures, any data gathered during this spell of uniquely high ambient temperature 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. Implement your strategy this year. Summer 2023 will come round quickly enough, so it’s important that any remedial cooling infrastructure maintenance or other improvements required 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 impulsive responses. 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 clear, actionable plan for heatwaves. Develop a readily-accessible checklist that’s immediately available for when the next heatwave arrives. This should detail things to do (and not do), key contact details, pre-agreed next-step mitigation plans, and plans for emergency cooling measures.

As ever, closing the dialogue between IT and facilities management teams is critical in ensuring the success of any data centre operator’s heatwave mitigation plans. 

And, following these five recommendations will help to give your team a head start!

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