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Beat the heat – keeping A/NZ data centres cool in a hot summer

Australia and New Zealand’s data centre market is heating up – a recent global data centre market comparison ranked Sydney in the top 10 data centre markets in the world, with Auckland in the top 10 to watch. There is plenty of other activity happening in other major cities, as well as edge facilities expanding significantly in regions across the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

While a hot market is positive for the data centre and cloud industries – as well as organisations expanding their digital services and needing data centre capacity to do so – heat is a major challenge for data centres to address. While the cooler La Nina summer will provide some cover for the region, heat spikes and the overall trajectory towards rising temperatures mean we need to think about how to protect data centres, now critical pieces of national infrastructure.

Europe’s summer foreshadowed some of the challenges we might face – in July, London data centres experienced heat-related outages, disrupting cloud services and taking sites offline when temperatures soared above 40 degrees Celsius.

There are some exercises facility managers and data centre operators can perform to mitigate these kinds of issues.

Maximise cooling units

When temperatures are high, running as many cooling units as possible to reduce the load on each individual unit. This keeps refrigerant pressures lower to reduce the risk of trips on high pressure during ambient temperature conditions, while also providing more efficient operations.

Maintenance

Maintenance is always important to stay across, but heatwaves have underscored its vitality to maintaining data centre operations. Quarterly maintenance can help to ensure the following areas are covered:

  • Condenser coils: Although coil cleaning is part of recommended preventive maintenance, coil inspection and cleaning should occur more often, especially during pollen, dust, and cottonwood seasons, and when high ambient conditions are common during summer. Failing to clean condenser coils can cause more of a reduction in the overall thermal unit than the ambient temperature itself, as it reduces the heat-transfer capability of the coil and becomes more critical when ambient temperatures rise. Further, a combination of high ambient temperatures and dirty coils can cause the system refrigerant pressures to increase to the point where the unit shuts down on the high-pressure safety switch. This could cause an unexpected loss of cooling during a critical time.
  • Refrigerant charge levels: As part of the preventive maintenance plan, checking the refrigerant charge levels is important. If the levels are too low or out of range, you may not be able to deliver on the design capacity and risk compressors overheating. If the levels are too high, you may be entering high-pressure conditions. Proper charge maintenance helps to ensure you have the design capacity and operating efficiency to function smoothly.

Once cooling units and maintenance are covered, it’s also vital data centre operators and facility managers take a step back and consider the design of the data centre infrastructure itself fits its environment.

As the data centre industry’s role in Australia and New Zealand’s enhanced digital economies continues to expand, it’s important providers are doing all they can to stay cool and keep people, businesses and communities connected this summer.

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