Data center getting a bit toasty? It might not matter

The conventional wisdom for hard drives, data centers and servers has always been “keep it frosty.” As we’ve been told time and again, the higher the temperature of hardware, the higher the fail rate.

Not so, according to an expert in the field. 

Cloud storage company Backblaze has run tests using its 34,000 in-house hard drives. While these devices were all kept in temperature controlled environments, according to a blog post, some of them ran a little hotter than others.

What it found: While there was a difference of about 10 degrees Celsius between the warmest and coolest devices (~18 degrees Fahrenheit), there was no correlation with the fail rate of these warmer drives and the cooler ones in general.

Within acceptable ranges

While the hard drives did average out to being kept at different temperatures, all of them were kept within the recommended range of the manufacturer. So this experiment doesn’t say that heat has no effect on fail rates – just that keeping a device much cooler won’t produce better results.

These findings are supported by research by Google [PDF] and other reports that indicate the costs of cooling data centers might not be worth the perceived benefits.

Data center efficiency

So if you can crank up the thermostat a little in your data center, what other savings might you be able to find?

  • Look for zombies. Banking giant Barclay’s recently took 5,500 comatose servers offline. While you probably don’t have a few thousand unused servers, the Uptime Institute observes that many companies leave old servers running for fear that unplugging them may cause some untold damage down the line.
  • Consider consumer. Backblaze also recently found that there is little to no difference between consumer and enterprise level servers. The price points may be different, but the fail rates aren’t.
  • Going off-site. Of course, if you’re looking for real data center savings, moving to the cloud is an appealing option. It gets storage out of your hands and your utility bills. Of course, you’ll need to make sure those savings aren’t devoured by huge cloud contracts.

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