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What Effect Will Climate Change Have On Your Data Centre?

Rohan Patil, Vertiv

Climate change, and global warming in particular, are having a massive impact on all aspects of our lives. One area, however, that should receive more attention is the effect on the very heart of our technological infrastructure: the data centre.

This is the view of Rohan Patil, regional director for East Africa at Vertiv, a global provider of critical digital infrastructure and continuity solutions, who points out that data centres in the region are particularly vulnerable.

“Overheating of data centres that are designed and expected to deliver 99.9% uptime, can be disastrous. Servers have to be maintained at set temperatures if they are to stay online, ensuring that the data centre continues to deliver services effectively and efficiently,” he says.

The challenge for data centre operators in East Africa is particularly acute. Global climate change experts all predict rising temperatures across Africa as a whole. A 2022 UN Environment Program report states that “East Africa, and in particular, parts of Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya, are experiencing the driest conditions and hottest temperatures since satellite record-keeping began.” The reports adds that Africa “suffers the heaviest impacts of the climate crisis, including increased heatwaves.”

Patil notes that modern data centres are technologically complex, so running them safely and efficiently requires continual close monitoring and management, stating that it is not only the temperature that has to be controlled, but also the humidity. If these levels rise within the data centre, condensation can start to form, damaging the servers it houses and causing damage and data loss.

Protecting your data centre against heat and humidity

There are various technologies and solutions available to help deal with the complexity that is data centre environmental control. The trick is to choose the best option that not only maintains the correct temperature and humidity levels, but does so efficiently, safely, cost-effectively and – given the rapid change in data centre technology itself – flexibly.

So, for example, recycling the hot air expelled from the servers can help to improve data centre cooling efficiency. Efficiency can also be improved by reducing bypass airflow, which is the amount of time it takes for air to flow through a device.

Then, there is the question of determining the right temperature for the data centre to keep it operating efficiently and safely. If the temperature is kept too low, this will increase cooling costs and waste money. But not keeping it low enough could also be problematic.

Another such factor is so-called ‘rack hygiene’, which can help to prevent exhaust air from the servers leaking into the machine’s intake area, ensuring only cold air reaches the equipment intakes.

The physical design of the data centre itself could also play an important role in maintaining the optimal environment. For example, it may also be a good idea to set up hot and cold aisles to prevent cold and hot air from mixing inside server rooms.

An additional decision that needs to be made – even prior to the construction of the data centre – is whether or not it should have a raised floor for air distribution. This impacts airflow within the data centre and could influence the choice of cooling technology. While both raised floor and non-raised floor data centres can be cooled effectively using today’s technologies, it’s vital to choose cooling units that can support the airflow requirements of the facility.

It’s also important to bear in mind that data centre technology itself is constantly evolving.  It’s estimated that IT refreshes occur every 18 to 30 months. As this occurs, so the challenges facing data centre managers will change and must constantly be updated to deal with new risks. 

“It’s clear that, looking ahead, it is important to be able to take advantage of technological innovations as they arise. Vertiv offers an extensive range of cutting-edge data centre thermal management technologies to ensure top performance and enhance energy efficiency designed to help data centres operate effectively and more sustainably,” Patil concludes.

Read: Vertiv Acquisition of CoolTera Ltd Boosts Liquid Cooling Portfolio

About author

Editor at TechArena. I cover all things technology and review new gadgets as I get them. You can reach me on email:
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