The effect of data center environment on infrastructure reliability

The effect of data center environment on infrastructure reliability

Temperature is one among several climate factors that can impact data center infrastructure.

A plethora of issues factor into achieving operational efficiency in the data center. Management needs a way to keep watch on data traffic in order to prevent poor load balancing, and to constantly maintain the variety of elements that can affect servers. This includes power management, which broadly accounts for electricity usage within the facility by the spectrum of equipment needed for optimal functionality. Energy consumption of servers, cooling components and computer systems must be held within certain ranges to prevent power-related downtime and to prolong the life of expensive equipment.

An equally important factor that is all too often viewed as tertiary to load balancing and power distribution, is environmental management of the data center. In order to ensure the overall reliability of facility infrastructure, data center managers must be conscious of the influence of environmental factors. 

Environmental threats to the data center 

Temperature, humidity and dew point all play a role in how well data center equipment will function, and how long it will last. According to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, specific metrics for data center temperature, humidity and dew point must be adhered to - and for good reason. The massive amounts of heat generated by data center equipment mandates the use of cooling components to ensure that safe working temperatures are maintained - for equipment and for staff.

Likewise, humidity can wreak havoc on data center equipment, especially if dew point is not properly regulated. Too much humidity can lead to electrical shorts that can precipitate costly downtime; this is a problem in and of itself. However, if dew point is not properly managed, the threat of moisture is augmented. Dew point is the temperature at which condensation occurs. If water vapor comes into contact with a surface that is at or below the dew point, it will condense into water. This further augments the risk of electrical shorts, and corrodes electronics. As water accumulates, other unforeseen issues may arise. For example, rodents and other pests are drawn to moist environments. The last thing a data center manager needs, or suspects for that matter, is downtime that results from rats chewing through critical wiring. Alternatively, too little moisture in the air can generate static electricity, and this can damage sensitive electronic equipment.

Another threat to the data center environment is poor use of physical space. Data center managers must be economical in their layout and choice of equipment, so as not to overcrowd specific sectors. Every facility will have high- and low-density racks and cabinets - cooling components and airflow systems must accommodate accordingly to maximize space usage. A failure to do so can foil data center management's attempts at operational efficiency by creating too many hot spots. Even poorly placed doors can create hazards in a data center, according to a study by ITWatchDogs, because they can create opportunities for entry by unauthorized personnel. 

How monitoring mitigates these risks

With such a wide range of environmental factors to take into consideration, data center managers need eyes and ears in every corner of a facility. A comprehensive climate monitoring solution such as Geist Watchdog leverages strategically placed sensors that gather important environmental data, which can then be funneled into a data center infrastructure management solution. This simplifies the process of ensuring that environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, airflow and dew point are at safe levels. With dry-contact sensors that are activated by the motion of a door as it closes or opens, data center management can also be sure that enclosed racks are secure at all times. Should sensors detect that anything is amiss in the vicinity, staff can receive alerts via a communication medium of its choosing - SMS, email, etc.

Environmental threats can negatively impact the reliability of data center facility infrastructure. But with climate monitoring, they don't have to.