Data centers have numerous safeguards in place to protect hardware assets and guard against cyber attacks. These measures are necessary to prevent data center outages.
But intrusions and cyber attacks aren’t the only causes of downtime. Environmental issues like extreme temperatures can cause uninterruptible power supply (UPS) failures.
To keep your data centers running efficiently and prevent unexpected outages, it’s critical to monitor environmental factors like temperature and humidity. This will enable you to act quickly if something goes wrong.
This article will take a closer look at data center environmental monitoring, including what it is, why it’s important, and the tools you can use to monitor every aspect of your data center.
Click the links below to jump straight to the section you want to learn more about:
- What Is Data Center Environmental Monitoring?
- Environmental Factors to Monitor in a Data Center
- Why Is Data Center Environmental Monitoring Important?
- Data Center Environmental Monitoring With DCIM Software
What Is Data Center Environmental Monitoring?
Data center environmental monitoring is the process of monitoring environmental conditions like temperature, humidity, and water.
It allows data center operators to become aware of any environment-related issues within the facility itself and take preventative measures to mitigate their impact.
Monitoring environmental conditions involves placing sensors throughout a facility and feeding that data into DCIM software (Data Center Infrastructure Management). Data center operators can receive alerts when a sensor detects that a threshold has been reached.
Consider uninterruptible power supplies (UPS). These units are designed to provide emergency power to critical hardware in the event of a power outage or when electricity drops in voltage.
Most UPS systems have several fans to keep them from overheating. But if these fans stop working, it can cause a UPS system to overheat and malfunction.
According to a survey from the Uptime Institute, UPS failures cause 53% of power-related outages.
One fan failing likely won’t take a UPS down. But multiple fans failing at the same time can cause these units to fail.
Monitoring environmental conditions allow data center operators to become aware of minute changes inside a facility and take remedial action before any systems fail.
Environmental Factors to Monitor in a Data Center
The purpose of environmental monitoring is to ensure that conditions inside a data center are at optimal levels. This not only improves overall efficiency, but can also help prevent unexpected outages.
An environmental monitoring system allows you to measure the following factors.
Data centers produce an enormous amount of heat given their constant use.
High temperatures increase the risk of hardware failure, while low temperatures place heavier strains on your cooling systems and cost your business in wasted energy.
The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), an organization that publishes energy efficiency standards, recommends a temperature range between 64° to 81°F for data centers.
Temperature monitoring involves placing temperature sensors throughout the facility. These include the top, middle, and bottom of server racks, as well as the air conditioning intake and discharge vents.
These sensors allow you to gauge the efficiency of your cooling systems and can notify you of any temperature-related issues before they become problematic.
Even if temperatures are properly controlled, it’s still important to monitor humidity because it can affect equipment.
High humidity levels can cause water condensation to form, which can cause corrosion and electrical shorts. If the humidity is too low, equipment can become damaged due to electrostatic discharge. Both can lead to equipment failure and cause unexpected outages.
Relative Humidity (RH) is the amount of moisture in the air at a given temperature. ASHRAE recommends keeping a data center’s RH to 60%, but 20 to 80% is still acceptable.
Monitoring humidity levels and keeping them at the recommended RH will keep your equipment functioning properly and minimize costly downtime.
Cooling accounts for as much as 30 to 60% of a data center’s utility bill. Proper airflow can help lower energy consumption and reduce operating costs.
The ideal airflow depends on the facility, but it’s important to monitor air flowing through the server racks and the air conditioning intake.
Poor airflow management can cause “hotspots” — local temperature variations inside a data center. These hotspots are more common at the top of server racks because hot air rises.
Flow sensors can help you measure and monitor airflow throughout the facility, and make adjustments when necessary.
Data centers in the U.S. use nearly 450 million gallons a day to generate electricity and for cooling systems.
Whether through leaks in the piping or in the event of a flood, water leakage can wreak havoc on hardware assets and cause outages.
Deploying water sensors throughout a data center, such as below the raised floor and underneath pipes, allows you to detect water and take appropriate measures.
Fire and Smoke Detection
Fire suppression systems are an integral part of any structure, as they’re designed to detect smoke and quickly extinguish fires before they spread to other areas.
However, these systems aren’t usually wired to alert the technical team if a fire breaks out, so it can be some time before someone can check on any critical assets.
One way to monitor this environmental factor is to integrate the smoke alarms into your environmental monitoring system. This will allow your team to mitigate damages and prevent further data loss.
In addition, you should also perform regular inspections to make sure your fire and smoke detection systems function properly.
Power and Voltage
Data centers depend on a constant flow of power to operate. A sudden drop in power can cause equipment to shut down, while a power surge can damage electrical components.
Data centers should always have UPS systems in place as a backup. But electrical failures can still disrupt air conditioning systems and lead to the facility overheating.
Voltage sensors are wireless sensors that you can attach to hardware assets. They provide constant monitoring and can alert you of potential problems. For example, high voltages can cause electrical components to fail.
You can also install electricity usage sensors to track power consumption right down to the rack level. This allows you to identify and replace stranded servers with more efficient equipment.
Why Is Data Center Environmental Monitoring Important?
Just one environmental factor in a data center exceeding thresholds is enough to cause equipment failure if appropriate measures aren’t taken in time.
The following is what makes a comprehensive environmental monitoring solution so important.
Companies are shifting more of their operations to the cloud to handle higher data processing demands and to save money on maintaining on-premise data centers.
Spending on public cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is forecasted to reach $173 billion in 2026. This model allows companies to deploy applications using a vendor’s computing resources.
Data center environmental monitoring allows you to increase the reliability of your infrastructure and storage devices. This increased reliability can be a huge selling point for your customers.
Helps Prevent Outages
Unexpected outages are extremely costly. According to Uptime Institute, 40% of outages cost between $100,000 to $1 million, and 16% cost over $1 million.
Frequent outages not only mean losing sales when customers can’t make purchases, but they also reflect poorly on your brand. Some customers may even consider other alternatives if outages are a regular occurrence.
Monitoring environmental factors and setting up alerts enable you to take immediate action when conditions hit certain thresholds.
For example, an increase in temperature could indicate a failing air conditioning unit. You could then service or replace faulty equipment before it leads to an outage.
Reduces Energy Costs
Do you know how much power each piece of equipment is using? Do you know if you’re overcooling your data center?
Understanding how much energy your compute infrastructure consumes is key to increasing energy efficiency and reducing costs.
Environmental monitoring sensors provide increased visibility for all hardware assets and allows you to track metrics in real-time using DCIM software.
One way you can apply these insights is to match power and cooling to IT workloads, which has been shown to reduce energy costs by as much as 30%. “Right-sizing” your power and cooling systems can translate to significant cost savings for your business.
Monitoring energy usage also allows you to identify servers that are using energy, but aren’t actually processing any workloads. Servicing or replacing these servers altogether can help make your data center even more efficient.
Data Center Environmental Monitoring With DCIM Software
Monitoring environmental factors like temperature and humidity is critical to improve performance and prevent unexpected downtime. But you need the right tools to visualize the data and help you make informed decisions.
Nlyte’s DCIM software lets you:
- Monitor environmental threats: Outfitting hardware assets with environmental sensors allows you to track factors like temperature, humidity, and water in real-time. You can set thresholds and have alerts sent to a data center manager to troubleshoot the issue. Taking these measures helps protect against environmental threats and minimize downtime.
- Maintain accurate records: Spreadsheets and other homegrown databases simply cannot keep pace with the changes in a modern data center. DCIM software acts as a single source of truth by maintaining a centralized database and keeping accurate records. Being able to view historical trends delivers valuable insights that you can use to improve efficiency.
- Perform accurate capacity planning: Accurate capacity planning ensures you have the necessary computing resources to meet current and future workload demands. With DCIM software, you can quickly visualize space for new servers and even determine the best place to put them in just a few clicks. This eliminates the guesswork of trying to estimate future processing requirements.
- Troubleshoot issues without sending someone on site: If an issue arises inside a data center, you need to know what the problem is as soon as possible. But sending someone on site can lengthen the time to repair and cause further data loss. DCIM software delivers enhanced monitoring and real-time reporting across your entire facility, allowing you to quickly troubleshoot issues.
- Identify hotspots with thresholds: Hotspots can occur because of inefficient cooling or poor air flow, and can lead to hardware failures. Identifying the cause will allow you to improve your cooling capabilities and reduce energy costs. DCIM software can alert you of hotspots, so you can take steps to eliminate them.
- Locate and eliminate stranded capacity: Identifying “ghost” servers that are wasting computing resources isn’t easy with conventional tools. By monitoring PDU (power distribution unit) output, DCIM solutions can help you identify stranded servers. You can then decommission or repurpose these stranded units.
- Track usage for individual clients: DCIM software allows you to collect real-time environmental data and track energy usage right down to the rack level. Generating energy cost reports for customer billback can help drive more energy-efficient behaviors.
- Create an integrated data center management process: IDCM integrates Building Management Systems (BMS) and DCIM solutions, allowing your facilities team to understand how power and cooling affect workloads. Matching workloads to optimal power and cooling levels can help increase efficiency and lower energy costs.
- Track key performance indicators (KPIs) in real-time: DCIM software automatically calculates and displays KPIs like Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) and Data Center Infrastructure Efficiency (DCiE) across your entire data center. These insights enable you to make data-driven decisions instead of relying on guesswork.
Data centers power key applications and house critical information for your business.
But environmental factors like temperature, humidity, and airflow affect performance and can even lead to unexpected outages. To protect your assets and minimize downtime, you need a robust environmental monitoring system.
You also need a software solution that allows you to track environmental factors in real-time and receive alerts when something requires your attention.
Nlyte’s DCIM software not only tracks environmental factors, but also helps you optimize your workloads and maximize the value of your assets. Schedule a demo today to see how Nylte’s DCIM software can help you manage your data center.