‘Roll Your Own’ Thermal Monitoring

Blade servers and high-density racks continue to create “hot spots” inside data centers. Detecting these hot spots before they cause servers to overheat is a critical challenge. There are a growing number of vendor offerings that can provide data center managers with sophisticated thermal mapping and monitoring of their facilities. But in recent weeks we’ve seen several providers develop their own monitoring systems. Here’s a look at two innovative approaches to hot spot detection:

  • Austin colocation provider Core NAP has built a system of low voltage thermal sensors tied together over Cat5 cable, which is summarized at IT Knowledge Exchange: “The monitors report back to a database that can map data center temperatures in real-time. (Core NAP) plans to be able to put multiple monitors in cabinets, under floors, and in the cable runs above of the racks. The sensors from Maxim IC report to USB readers plugged into Linux hosts. The hosts log data to a local web server, and Core NAP plans to combine that info with Visio maps of the data center.” Jeremy Porter, the Senior Internet Data Center Architect at Core NAP, says this approach will save money compared to off-the-shelf solutions.

  • Fast-growing San Francisco colocation provider United Layer is using forward-looking infrared (FLIR) cameras, as noted by Allen Leinwand recently at GigaOm. An excerpt: “United Layer rents a FLIR camera, the kind typically used to help pilots see at night or in dense fog, to create an infrared thermal image of equipment racks in which inefficient configurations can be easily detected. Once they’re found, United Layer works with the customer to redesign their rack layout, improving equipment performance, lifetime and total cost of ownership. Of course, this process also makes it easier to cool the data center, which helps control United Layer’s operational costs.”

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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  1. You've touched on an important issue that many data centers are encountering as IT managers seek higher and higher densities. DC power offers an ideal solution here. Servers with DC power supplies, in a datacenter with a DC power distribution system, offer the ability to deploy extremely dense server racks because they are on average 20% more efficient than their AC equivalents (see http://www.rackable.com/docs/tollyrackablec1001.pdf) and therefore eliminate a significant amount of heat. By reducing the power losses and resulting heat, hot spots become much less of an issue. In fact, a Rackable DC-powered server configuration can get rid of hot zones altogether with their internal rack hot aisle design. Ron Croce, Validus DC Systems