Data centers are becoming more indispensable by the minute as we head towards a future in which data is at the core of everything we do. Although modern data centers have unbelievable capacity and sophistication and have made significant contributions to environmental sustainability, they are not immune or invincible to extreme weather and climate conditions.
Due to the uncertainty and spontaneity of climate conditions, extreme weather is a growing risk factor to data centers in several ways:
As global temperatures continue to rise, many parts of the world will experience spells of heat, especially in the summertime. Data centers have always required cooling systems, as server rooms can reach temperatures high enough to overheat on their own. Cooling can involve basic practices such as opening a door or require important equipment and systems. However, no matter how complicated the systems are, they are mostly made with regular room temperatures in mind for the data center’s atmosphere.
Now, it’s expected that the annual number of days with a heat index above 100°F will double, and days with a heat index above 105°F will triple in the United States. This means that the sophisticated cooling systems that can handle temperatures above 100°F will be activated more, and when in use, they will be working overtime. Not many of the older data centers have the capabilities for this, putting them at risk; and many new data centers are at the risk of cooling systems experiencing faults due to overuse.
Wildfires cause drastic grid supply failures that data centers might have to contend with for a long duration. The issue of grid supply failure is tackled in most data centers through the use of backup generators. However, this fail-safe resource is built to last only so long, such that other temporary power sources are needed. Unfortunately, not many data centers have such supplementary power sources.
In the United States, 17,405 wildfires occurred between January 1, 2021, and April 29, 2021and about 461,254 acres were burned. These numbers are significantly higher than the 2020 wildfire data which shows that 11,885 wildfires occurred and 220,823 acres were burned last year during the same period, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. With wildfires and their effects predicted to be greater this year than last year’s, most of the data centers face serious risk.
Extreme weather like heavy rain and flooding can also cause grid supply failures. For example, parts of the data center building can be made inaccessible and even defective if ever flooded. The inaccessibility caused by the flood makes it even more challenging to rectify any damages already caused to the facilities. Floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States, therefore, the potential to have this much effect on data centers makes them a big risk.
Since we can’t control the weather, it’s imperative to keep risks posed by extreme conditions top of mind along with all other considerations when considering the many cloud, green cloud, edge, hybrid and other types of data center solutions currently available in the marketplace. It may seem daunting to consider that we are in an age where extreme weather events are rising globally with no sign of relenting- but the best cloud/storage solutions available in the world are indeed capable of successfully mitigating these ever-increasing challenges without failure. The key is for decision makers to be aware of all of the ever-changing factors with which infrastructure must wrestle as the industry continues to mature, and continue to stay current about the most nascent, best-in-class technologies and techniques for combating these issues.