Using Thermal Mapping at the Data Center

INTRODUCTION

For data centers, maintaining a continuous flow of information requires near 100% uptime. As 24/7/365 operations become the norm for business, ensuring that data center infrastructure stays up and running is mission critical. Hard failures can cost a large business millions of dollars in lost productivity and opportunity costs. If this were not a big enough challenge, data centers consume a lot of energy, and in times of rising worldwide demand, high operating expenses can put a serious dent in the information technology (IT) organization’s budget.

Because of the need for high uptime rates, the ever-increasing cost of electricity, higher server densities and limits on electrical grid capacity, data center operators are now looking for ways to optimize performance and increase their kW per square foot rating—all while reducing costs. Reducing the consumption of energy in a data center while maintaining high availability is no small task, but the rewards are high. In the US, servers and data centers consumed 61 billion kWh (1.5% of total US electrical consumption) in 2006 and are projected to consume as much as 100 billion kWh by the end of this year1.

To ensure reliability and economical operating costs, the power distribution and cooling infrastructure must be actively managed. Outages stemming from electrical or mechanical failure can be prevented by physical redundancy practices and predictive/preventive maintenance (P/PM) and are currently being used by most data centers. To reduce electrical consumption and address ‘green’ operating mandates, data center operators are now exploring ways to raise temperature set points2.

What’s the solution? While it may not be obvious, a usable ‘heat view’ provides a big part of the answer. Today, managing a data center involves far more than solid IT operations. Because temperature is directly linked to energy consumption and equipment operation, infrared thermography (thermal imaging and thermal mapping) can be used to monitor power consumption, cooling, and IT operations. In fact, monitoring the electrical equipment, cooling equipment and computing equipment which is at the heart of the data center, is precisely where thermal infrared thermography (IRt) can help the most!

Infrared thermography (IRt) is used to find, diagnose and document problems such as short-cycling of the air conditioning system, loose electrical connections and worn out bearings. After repairs have been made, IRt is used to recheck the equipment to make sure it is operating properly. Two main categories are:

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