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What are the 3 Things You Can Guarantee in Life? Death, Taxes and Your Data Centre Cooling Will Fail On The Hottest Day of the Year

Simon Brady •

It’s Murphy’s law. Everything was fine during the winter but as soon as the short sleeve shirts and summer dresses are dragged out of the wardrobe the cooling system starts to struggle. Let’s be clear. They shouldn’t.

Cooling systems, especially data centre cooling systems, are or at least should be, designed to cope with summer temperatures. Here at Vertiv, we have deployed systems in the deserts of the Middle East and Africa. Extreme temperatures, high or low, are not an issue for mechanical cooling systems. These high temperatures only become an issue when they are not operated or more importantly maintained correctly.

My role at Vertiv, and with The Green Grid, is to help customers reduce energy consumption. It’s not rocket science. See my article on how using duct tape can improve data centre efficiency here. Get the basics right and there are large savings to be made while increasing site stability. To start with the biggest problem, I find is the poor state of the basic critical infrastructure. Sadly, the main reason for this is a lack of quality maintenance over time.

Driving down cost in any business is always on the agenda, but often what looks like a good saving in the short-term results in significant costs later.

At Vertiv we are often called out to help customers who have ageing cooling systems that are about to or have failed. These tend to be systems that have not been poorly maintained or not at all. Poor maintenance is a simple case of you get what you pay for. The pictures below show this perfectly.

This customer has engaged a contracted company to maintain their data centre infrastructure. The contract included regular replacement of fan filters. As you can see, the filters were being replaced to meet the service-level agreement but clearly not the correct type and quantity. Yes, money is being saved but at what future cost? As it turned out, a significant future cost.

Due to the build-up of dust and debris, the effectiveness and efficiency of these above units were dramatically reduced. This, in turn, leads to the units not being able to cool the IT load when the system is being pushed to its capacity on a hot day. Vertiv were called out because the cooling units were not ‘working’ and the data centre was getting close to thermal overload. This was a massive risk to the business with the potential for a partial or full loss of the IT load. Once we identified the issue, the customer had to take these units offline to be cleaned while hiring in temporary cooling. There were some units that were beyond repair due to the damage to the coils which led to a significant cost to replace equipment. A simple decision to try and save a few hundred Euro per unit every 3 months resulted in over €100,000 of costs, plus the risk to the business. This cost cutting decision also decreased the efficiency of the cooling system. Over time the compressors and fans were having to work much harder than they should to deliver cool air to the IT equipment.

Sadly, this is not a one-off event for Vertiv. As the temperatures rise during the summer don’t let it be an expensive time of the year.

What can you do to avoid emergency call outs and high repair costs?

  1. Know your systems and how they should be maintained.
  2. Don’t always assume a general facilities business has the specialist skills. Regularly check critical systems even if they are being maintained.
  3. Take the time to look at your systems to ensure they are being maintained to the standard you expect.
  4. Engage with the equipment manufacturers or specialist data centre services providers.

We have the people, knowledge and expertise to keep your equipment running at optimal performance and efficiency. Prevention is much better than a cure. Contact our Service Team for more information about our preventive maintenance services. 


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