Data center temperature specs change

Walking into an ice-cold data center is slowly becoming a thing of the past, with the days of 68 F computing facilities receding further into history.


ASHRAE Data Center will soon release the third edition of its Thermal Guidelines specifications, which since 2004 has created the de facto global standard for allowable temperatures within data centers, as well as how to measure those temperatures. 

The second edition of the standard set as the optimal temperature 80.6 F for data center operations. The third edition is expected to further raise that thermostat, although ASHRAE has not yet announced what the new recommended temperature will be.

The standard is created by Technical Committee 9.9, for Mission Critical Facilities. The committee first made waves in the IT industry when it published the book on data center heating and cooling in 2004; prior to that point, individual manufacturers set their own acceptable temperature ranges.

Raising the thermostat in data centers allows companies to cut tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars off their energy costs every year, and reduces the carbon footprint of the data center at the same time. The most widely quoted estimate is that data centers contribute about 2% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, although that figure is now several years old and likely underestimates the rapid rise in demand for IT around the world.

ASHRAE's TC 9.9 consists of engineers from IT manufacturing companies, and all of those firms are already working on addressing energy use in the data center. In an article looking at the new standards, Data Center Knowledge's John Rath writes:

But some in the data center industry say ASHRAE will simply be acknowledging advances that are already taking place in some of the largest working data centers. "Most companies in the cloud business are already procuring servers that operate well outside of the ASHRAE specs to allow for aggressive economization to drive much greater efficiencies then what is achievable using the ASHRAE specs," said Christian Belady, the General Manager of Data Center Research at Microsoft Global Foundation Services "My guess is that they realize now that they are no longer driving the industry environmentals, and are now going to broaden to what the cloud providers have already made as the de facto standard."

Belady was among those who encouraged ASHRAE to adopt a more aggressive revision of data center operating temperatures. "At the time I was arguing that (ASHRAE) should be leading the industry and drive vendors to broaden operating ranges well beyond what they ultimately published in 2009 so that the industry can aggressively adopt economization," Belady said, adding that ASHRAE "elected to be conservative."

More details about the new standard are available from ASHRAE.

- Edited by Gust Gianos, Consulting-Specifying Engineer,

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