Wireless battery-free temperature sensors can be used for thermal monitoring of IT assets in your data center, asses its thermal performance and increase its overall efficiency.

Energy efficiency in the data center used to be an afterthought, if ever considered at all. But increased processing needs and power-hungry equipment have made the power bill one of the primary costs of running a data center.

The increased OpEx – which can easily exceed the hardware cost of the server during its operational lifespan – perks up the ears of every member manager of the company. That’s why tools such as Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) or thermal monitoring systems have taken center stage in the battle to control data center costs and improve efficiency.

Cooling – a major cost factor

For every kilowatt delivered to the data center, a typical split can be: 40% delivered to the IT equipment and 60% being power distribution losses (around 30%) and the energy required to run cooling equipment (30%). This 40% efficiency is not atypical. Cooling is a major cost factor in data centers.

The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Technical Committee 9.9 (http://tc99.ashraetcs.org/) has created a widely accepted set of guidelines for optimal temperature and humidity set points in the data center. These guidelines specify both a required and allowable range of temperature and humidity. The ASHRAE guidelines can be found here.

ASHRAE humidity and thermal monitoring guidelines in data centers

ASHRAE guidelines for temperature and humidity in data centers

Raising temperature is dollar wise

The reason for the ASHRAE to keep increasing the recommended temperature is clear: increasing data center efficiency can save lots of money.

Data center equipment today is more capable of handling higher temperatures without putting in risk the assets or operations. The U.S. Department of Energy’s website estimates a 1% energy saving for each degree the AC temperature is raised. Some sites claim 2%, 3% and even 4% savings, but even 1% for a data center’s energy budget is very significant.

However, managers need the correct tools to manage the new environment and guarantee that such an increase will not lead to increased downtime or shorter asset life cycles.

Thermal monitoring systems

The most obvious and powerful benefit of environmental monitoring is being able to reduce the costly air-cooling temperatures. Thermal monitoring metrics and infrastructure provide the critical information data centers need to fine tune these systems, maximizing savings while ensuring temperatures stay within designated guidelines.

Data centers can proactively prevent downtime risks with intelligent environmental monitoring by monitoring temperatures and receiving immediate notification when any heating issues arise, such as a hotspot.

In general, sensors are located in key locations to manage the air-conditioning system.

Thermal monitoring systems. Sensor location

Thermal monitoring systems. Sensor location

Wireless sensor networks help deploying the sensors in the right places without the need of wires. However, batteries need to be replaced periodically, which can be an issue for big data centers.

Monitor wirelessly, without batteries and improve asset monitoring

Using UHF RFID battery-free sensor tags in your DCIM solution will provide the means to go further in asset management:

  • Improved temperature control. By using RFID temperature sensor tags for each of the IT assets you can monitor a specific asset – which is uniquely associated to a tag ID. RFID readers will receive the data from sensor tags and alerts can be programmed if any asset is above the desired temperature level.

Moreover, you can have more granularity in terms of a thermal picture of your data center. Having different temperature sensors at different heights in the same location will provide data to reliably compare expected vs. real temperature conditions due to specific asset location within a rack.

  • Improved asset life cycle management. The fact that each asset is uniquely monitored by a tag means that, over the asset’s operational life, you will be building data of its environmental conditions. This set of objective data will allow you to understand the real status of the asset, providing you with the information to act accordingly to optimize its performance over time.

Many data centers are already using UHF RFID infrastructure such as fixed or handheld readers, mainly to help them with asset inventories. Using sensor tags can help them go further for a small budget and monitor temperature, pressure, humidity and other parameters of interest.