A new report argues the UK’s data centres are between them achieving ‘poor’ levels of cooling utilisation, with two thirds of cooling equipment installed on average not delivering any benefits.
The figures come from EkkoSense, a Nottingham-based provider of data centre risk management software. Naturally, it’s worth noting at this juncture that these figures are manna from heaven for such a company and the services it provides – more of which shortly – but the figures are interesting in themselves.
EkkoSense analysed 128 UK data centre halls, and more than 16,500 racks, and found that on average, the data cooling utilisation level is at 34%. Less than 5% of UK data centre monitoring and evaluation teams say they actively monitor and report temperature on an individual rack by rack basis.
The company adds that it’s not the lack of cooling capacity which is causing the issue – indeed, weather patterns in the UK are more often than not a positive contributor – but a ‘continued poor management of airflow and a failure to actively monitor and report rack temperatures’.
“Our ongoing survey into UK data centre cooling clearly shows that, despite their continued reliance on new and more expensive cooling equipment, data centres aren’t doing enough to reduce the risk to the business that unplanned outages inevitably bring,” said James Kirkwood, EkkoSense head of operations.
One company which focuses particularly on the environmental message with its data centres is Rackspace. The open cloud provider opened a data centre in Crawley in 2015 – an event which this reporter attended – with the green theme in evidence. The data centre has a targeted power usage effectiveness (PUE) of 1.15 – its current level is 1.3, with the industry average being 1.7 – while other environmentally-conscious features include a sloped roof to harvest rainwater and cooling using natural air.
Gary Boyd, senior director DC project engineer at Rackspace, told CloudTech about the process behind the data centre in Crawley. “Businesses can make significant power savings by carefully considering airflow when planning a data centre,” he said. “Our Rackspace data centre in Crawley was the first in the UK to make use of innovative ‘indirect outside air’ cooling technology on a large scale, without mechanical cooling.
“This meant the overhead energy required to operate the data centre was cut by almost 80%,” added Boyd. “The cooling design requires operational discipline, and device management best practice, to ensure the hot and cold aisles are separated through containment, thereby enabling the data centre to operate within the higher temperature range of Ashrae standards [for the design and maintenance of indoor environments].
“It led not only to financial savings, but a positive reputation in the industry, making us attractive to both customers and talent. Hopefully we will see more companies utilising airflow to their advantage in this manner.”
EkkoSense, in a similar vein, offers a data centre optimisation (DCOP) service which uses a three-stage approach to getting the most out of sites. The firm measures, 3D maps and analyses airflow performance across each room, then re-balances the floor to reduce hot and cold spots, alongside utilising EkkoAir, a product which tracks data centre cooling loads in real time.