With the latest UK heatwave coming to an end this week, EkkoSense has identified five steps that operations teams can take to ensure that they are as ready as they can be when the next heatwave occurs.
Stu Redshaw, EkkoSense’s Chief Technology and Innovation Officer, says, “This summer’s record temperatures clearly put data centres and their associated infrastructures 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.
“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. What these kinds of incidents illustrate is the challenge that 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 heatwave occurs, they are ready. Here’s EkkoSense’s five key recommendations:
- Conduct a pre-summer high temperature incident audit across all of 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 of your external cooling plants and other infrastructure resources, ensuring they are optimally maintained. This will require close co-operation between IT and facilities management teams.
- Learn from this summer’s heatwaves – with record-breaking temperatures, any data gathered during this unique UK weather should prove invaluable. Despite all of the discussions around climate change, very few operators actually considered its potential impact on their data centres, with 35 degrees still baked into specifications as the highest 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!