Most data center managers keep their facilities much too cold -- as much as 15 percent too cold, according to a server expert at Intel.
In an article by Rik Myslewski published yesterday in The Register, Dylan Larson, Intel's director of server platform technology initiatives, explained last week that keeping data centers in the low 70s and high 60s leads to a significant amount of excess cooling, and wasted energy.
The ideal temperature, per Larson as well as the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), is a balmy 80 degrees.
There is a long way to go toward reaching that ideal, however; in a survey of data center managers conducted by the Data Center Users Group, 100 percent of respondents are cooling their facilities to well below the ideal.
In the figure below, which is drawn from a report (PDF available here) jointly developed by Intel, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Liebert Precision Cooling and the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, only 3 percent of respondents keep their data centers at 74 degrees, and none maintain higher temperatures than that.
Part of the challenge comes from getting servers and computer-room air conditioning units (CRAC units, for short) to communicate effectively about how much cooling the servers themselves actually need. As Myslewski writes,
Of course, CRAC-unit vendors aren't motivated to step up and say that overly cool data centers are wasting power and money, seeing as how some of that money goes to them for more-powerful cooling systems.
But Larson is optimistic. "Believe it or not, we've been able to work with CRAC-unit vendors like Liebert and Emerson to look at how we can actually manage to get to a point of addressing reductions in power by managing temperature more effectively."
Perhaps CRAC dealers with enlightened self-interest will find increased profits in retrofitting their installed bases with power-management intelligence.
And beyond relying on enlighted self-interest, I'd say budgetary reasons are going to drive a shift just as quickly. In a report released yesterday by CDW, companies that make IT leaders responsible for their energy bills are much more likely to see efficiency gains -- as well as the adoption of other green IT practices -- than companies that leave that bill in the facilities department.
And as IT managers and CIOs start to feel the pinch of budgetary restrictions and hit the walls of energy availability, heating up the data center will be a relatively easy decision to make.