Data centres — riding the heatwave


By Andrew Kirker, General Manager–Datacentres, Schneider Electric Pacific
Monday, 03 April, 2017


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Now is the perfect time to set up a preventive maintenance strategy for your data centre.

When the temperature gauge creeps up to unexpected levels, it doesn’t take long to notice the change. People seek refuge from the heat, whether in an air-conditioned office or at the beach. Building sites empty once the mercury hits 35 degrees, with workers required by law to take a break of no less than 30 minutes.

The recent heatwave in Sydney triggered huge demands on data centres and their cooling systems. But now that the weather has finally cooled, we have to ask ourselves… as data centre managers, did we do enough to institute preventive measures?

Unfortunately, in many cases, managers treat their data centres as one would their heart — utterly indispensable to health and wellbeing, but until it becomes critical and is in need of surgery, many of us don’t give it a second thought.

A data centre is core infrastructure that is increasingly critical to the success of numerous sectors, whether it’s monitoring city traffic activity or conducting life-saving surgery. It is not good enough to wait and react when the system is under most pressure — there is too much at stake. Instead, we need to take preventive steps.

Regular servicing. Data centres are complex pieces of machinery. They are not designed to run nonstop without servicing. An engineer can help you to identify whether your cooling system is working at an optimum level, and most importantly, whether components need replacement. There should be a regular maintenance schedule in place to act as an insurance policy for when the heatwaves eventually come.

Condition-based maintenance. The latest data centres have self-diagnostic functionalities that enable them to report accurately on their component status which, in tandem with the aforementioned servicing, can help keep your data centre prepared for any eventuality, even a severe heatwave. Don’t wait for the system to trigger an alert; stay close to its diagnostics and take action when appropriate.

Optimisation. A critical part of getting the most out of a data centre’s cooling system is adjusting its capabilities — it doesn’t need to run at full strength unless the weather demands it. Your engineer will help you understand the optimum temperature at which your centre can run at various times of the year. Continual optimisation of the system will make it much more prepared for any hot spell that may arrive.

Every year heatwaves cause power outages throughout the country, and data centre managers will experience sleepless nights in anticipation of the potential havoc they may cause. But data centres can effectively handle outside temperatures that go into the mid-40s if they have been effectively and well maintained. As the heatwaves seem to have passed for now, this is the perfect time to set up a preventive maintenance strategy.

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