Equinix AM3 data center in Amsterdam
Keeping things cool is a bit of a national obsession in the summer, when air gets heavier and clothing gets lighter. But cooling is critical for Equinix year-round, whether we’re smack in the middle of a New York summer (88 degrees Wednesday) or an Australian winter (56 in Melbourne). Here’s why it’s so important, along with some of the things we do at Equinix to keep cooling costs and energy usage as low as possible.
Data centers need to stay cool for the same reason we try to prevent cars from overheating. If servers and other data centers equipment are allowed to run too hot, they could incur severe damage or break down. That simply can’t happen.
The American Society of Heating Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) periodically sets guidelines for the temperature of the air entering servers and other data center equipment. Back in 2008, ASHRAE set a recommended range that had about 81 degrees at the upper end, but most data centers still don’t run near that temperature. A 2013 survey of data centers by the Uptime Institute found that nearly 85% operated between 65 and 75 degrees, with only 7% operating over that level.
The chance to safely increase temperatures is a major objective of data center operators because it means they can rely less on chillers and more on the ambient air, saving energy costs – just like homeowners do when they turn down the air conditioning. The U.S. General Services Administration says every one degree increase in server inlet temperatures can save 4% to 5% in energy costs.
As the industry works to make computers more heat tolerant, it’s also pioneering more efficient cooling methods, from in-row air conditioners to the somewhat-messy sounding immersion cooling, in which computing equipment is immersed in a nonconductive bath oil.
At Equinix some of our standard cooling methods include variable frequency drives, which are deployed in chillers, pumps and fans in our HVAC systems and reduce a motor’s speed and power draw when there’s lower system loads.
Water-side and air-side economizers take advantage of cooler ambient temperatures to reduce the demand on compressors and chillers.
Cold/hot aisle containment uses physical barriers to reduce mixing between the cold air in data center supply aisles and the hot air in exhaust aisles, lowering energy consumption and increasing cooling efficiency.
Adaptive control systems feature intelligent, distributed sensors and innovative control policies that actively manage airflow, reducing power consumption and increasing cooling capacity.
Equinix also has unique cooling technologies at specific sites. In Toronto, our TR1 data center is linked to an innovative cooling system that uses deep, chilled water from Lake Ontario. Our AM3 facility in Amsterdam uses free air cooling until the temperature exceeds about 64 degrees. Then it cools down by using hybrid cooling tower and water from an aquifer 170 meters underground.
Cooling innovation is a priority at Equinix, so we keep up with the latest technology and trends. From the company’s start, we’ve guaranteed power and cooling, and we’re always looking for better ways to deliver it. Summertime or not.