With today’s typical data centre cooling unit utilisation rates still only averaging 34 percent, the reality is that organisations continue to spend far more than they need to on expensive data centre cooling systems. To address this, they need to find ways to become much more precise in their operation – and this certainly shouldn’t involve uniformly applying space, power, cooling and other inputs across their data rooms.
Securing new levels of precision is a key driver behind ASHRAE’s recommendation that data centre operations teams equip each of their racks with as many as three temperature sensors. Having surveyed hundreds of individual data centre rooms at EkkoSense, we estimate that sensing at ASHRAE’s suggested level would typically require around 10x more sensors than are typically deployed in today’s data centres.
Expanding sensing to stay within ASHRAE’s recommended limits
ASHRAE suggests that simply positioning temperature sensors on data centre columns and walls is no longer enough, and that data centre operators should – as a minimum – be collecting temperature data from at least one point for every 3m to 9m of rack aisle.
It also goes on to suggest that unless components such as IT racks actually have their own dedicated thermal sensors, there’s realistically no way for them to stay within target thermal limits.
Unfortunately, it’s rare for data centres to sense to this level. That’s probably a key reason why, when we recently analysed over 70 major UK data centres, we found that 11 percent of racks weren’t actually ASHRAE thermally compliant. That’s a problem, because without comprehensive sensing you really can’t determine which of your business-critical racks are compliant and which aren’t.
However, by combining this kind of sensor installation with the real-time optimisation capabilities of the latest 3D visualisation and monitoring software, you can now not only ensure ASHRAE compliance across your entire data centre estate, but also start to unlock significant data centre cooling energy savings.
For example, we have found that by adopting this kind of approach we can now deliver an impressive average energy saving of at least 23 percent, with a typical payback of less than 12 months.
Once this real-time, rack level data is collected and analysed by a 3D spatial model, specialist software can accurately determine the thermal quality of a location, and start to identify what needs to be done to improve that quality and even to warn operators of specific areas that are at risk.
Evolving towards software-enabled real-time data centre optimisation to monitor, manage and maximise
Having access to real-time, rack-level environmental data also starts to provide exactly the data platform needed for the kind of software-enabled real-time decision-making and scenario planning capabilities that data centres need if they’re to evolve towards true cooling optimisation – effectively removing the uncertainty from data centre cooling and ensuring that all of your racks remain ASHRAE thermally compliant.
This kind of fully-sensed data centre is an essential element on the journey towards truly AI-managed precision data centres. At EkkoSense this has already started with the creation of intelligent feedback loops that analyse airflow data into ‘zone of influence’ modules that we can then combine with standard BMS systems to enable automated, zone-by-zone data centre cooling.
Factor in cooling and power capacity planning coverage, as well as real-time ‘what-if?’ simulation support, and organisations can start to see exactly where and how they’re currently under or over-cooling across their data centre estate.