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Data Center Evaluation in High-Temperature Environments

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Overview and Background
Expanding the ambient-temperature operating range for IT equipment (ITE) can yield significant savings in capital and operating expenses related to cooling infrastructure.

Existing standards and guidelines can provide an appropriate framework for evaluating performance, reliability, and other factors while operating close to the prescribed limits of ambient temperature ranges. This paper describes the results of a study in which under certain load conditions an Intel® Xeon® processor-based system designed for a Class A2 environment as defined by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) can be adapted to a Class A4 environment or to a 3.1E environment as defined by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI).

The study, conducted by Microsoft and Intel, shows how a server can be characterized to determine its capability based on ambient temperature and performance while ensuring that power and thermal constraints can be maintained. It also summarizes other issues to be considered in the context of operation at the extremes of the environmental range specified for a given system.

Creating server systems that operate at higher-than-usual ambient temperatures can help initiate a trend away from conventional chiller-cooled data centers to free-air-cooled data centers. The further system design improvements discussed here target the elimination of water used for adiabatic cooling by using only the surrounding outdoor ambient air for cooling, thereby lowering facility complexity and total cost of ownership (TCO).

The results of this study are not necessarily relevant to all environments, and it also does not address reliability issues associated with operating outside the Class A2 environment.