Will Server Warranties Get Hotter, Too?

The aggressive new approach to data center temperature has implications for equipment vendors, who are being urged to extend the upper limits of operating temperatures in their warranties.

The higher temperature settings supported by Rackable's new CloudRack C2 enclosure generated quite a bit of discussion last week at Slashdot and elsewhere. The CloudRack C2 can operate in environments as hot as 104 degrees, offering customers the option of saving energy costs by raising the temperature in their data center.

The aggressive new approach to data center temperature has implications for equipment vendors, as noted by James Hamilton. "The best way to make cooling more efficient is to stop doing so much of it," he writes. "I’ve been asking all server producers ,including Rackable, to commit to full warranty coverage for servers operating with 35C (95F) inlet temperatures. Some think I’m nuts, but a few innovators like Rackable and Dell fully understand the savings possible. Higher data center temperatures conserve energy and reduce costs. It’s good for the industry and good for the environment. To fully realize these industry-wide savings we need all data center IT equipment certified for high temperature operations particularily top of rack and aggregation switches."

Google, which favors running data centers hotter than 80 degrees, makes its own servers.  Google’s practices on data center temperature have prompted discussions with Intel, according to The Register, which says Google has asked Intel to certify its chips to operate at temperatures five degrees warmer than its standard specs. Intel has run testbeds using outside air to cool servers in the data center - a technique known as air-side economization. Intel found negligible differences in equipment failure at temperatures as high as 92 degrees, leading it to conclude that "existing assumptions about the need to closely regulate (heat and humidity) bear further scrutiny.”

A wider temperature range in server warranties would likely prompt more data center managers to experiment with warmer thermostat settings. Is it likely to happen?

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