Measure, measure, measure: It's one of the pieces of advice repeatedly doled out to companies looking to make their datacenters more energy-efficient. Without question, it's a sound suggestion; if you don't know where you're starting from, how do you know where you should go or whether you've made any progress ?
The real difficulty, however, lies in the measuring process. It can be time consuming. And once you've thoroughly measured the temperature, humidity, airflow, and energy consumption throughout your facility, you have a valuable snapshot -- but just for a while. As time passes and changes occur within your datacenter -- new equipment is added, a tile plate comes loose, a CRAC unit goes down -- you might not realize you have a hot spot until the next time you take a measurement (or a system overheats).
Fortunately, change is afoot: Companies are rolling out smart tools to help datacenter operators measure key datacenter metrics in real time, thus giving them unprecedented insight as to how efficiently their facilities are running at any given moment. That's the long-term vision, anyway. Some, such as Microsoft, are doing it internally while others are bringing these systems to market.
On-the-fly heat maps
One such intriguing offering is coming from a relatively young company called SynapSense, based in Folsom, Calif. (just outside Sacramento). The company has devised an innovative solution that uses wireless sensors to gather various types of data on temperature, humidity, and energy consumption. The system software then crunches the numbers to provide status reports and information on datacenter health through a GUI. You can also set it up to send e-mail or SMS alerts under certain conditions, such as an abrupt drop or rise in temperature.
The most recent addition to the company's product line is called LiveImaging, which creates thermal, humidity, and pressure-differential maps of a datacenter using 3-D real-time data. Thus, an IT operator could log in to the SynapSoft console at any moment to find instances of hot spots or direct airflow, then take necessary actions to address overheating and air mixing.