Servers Too Cold?

by Bob Plankers on April 6, 2009 · 8 comments

in General Rambling,LazyWeb,System Administration

Dear Readers,

Has anybody ever had a server get too cold? I’ve seen them get too warm, but there’s very little data about the cold end of things. Can anybody tell me what happens?

I’m mainly talking about servers. We do have some IBM tape drives that don’t like the cold, but that’s understandable. In the cold I’d expect issues with fans, especially the cheap ones with sleeve bearings. What else?

{ 8 comments }

Matt Simmons April 6, 2009 at 1:46 PM

I’ve made my server room cold to the point that the AC froze up, shut down, and then things got too hot.

Also, condensation becomes an issue:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dew_point

Jason M April 6, 2009 at 2:12 PM

Dell used to have an issue with its Powervault 220s (scsi jbod) getting too cold and causing a thermal shutdown. Firmware update resolved it. Many an unhappy time when a cold DC would cause the jbod to shutdown.

Bruno April 6, 2009 at 2:38 PM

Maybe you want to have a chat with one of the sysadmin working on this particular project:
http://www.icecube.wisc.edu/
They have some experience with mixing cold and IT ;-)

Anonymous April 6, 2009 at 2:43 PM

I’ve seen one DC go down to about 13 Celsius due to AC problem. There wasn’t any issue with cold specifically (all types of servers, IBM, Sun, Fujitsu, HP as well as heavy weight NW equipment).

Condensation became a far more serious issue than cold. Droplets had formed on the surfaces of equipment and were beginning to trickle inside. Luckily we got HVAC under control before anything shorted out.

I still shiver in horror at the experience. Not recommended!

Bob Plankers April 6, 2009 at 2:49 PM

@Matt – yeah, dew point is something I’ve considered.

@Bruno — I am soooo dumb, duh duh duh duh duh. I work at the UW – Madison. :-) Though their servers are mostly here I think. Need to check. They do their own IT while I work for the central IT group.

I can’t believe I didn’t think of that. But, that’s why I throw stuff like this out there. :-)

Shane April 6, 2009 at 4:21 PM

I have had an issue with a single-board computer (PCEngines WRAP) installed in a tree on a hillside at 8200′ altitude. At very cold temps (~ -5F and lower) one of the network interfaces gets balky and I have to wait for the temp to rise before I can talk to it again. No disk drive, only FLASH and DRAM.

Of course, this temperature is the one reported by an outside thermometer. What the temperature is in the enclosure containing the board I don’t know, but that enclosure is subject to wind, snow, etc., and the thermometer is about 50′ lower in altitude on the side of a house.

Bob Plankers April 6, 2009 at 4:22 PM

@Shane — cool. I wonder if it gets so cold that a trace in the PC board pulls apart.

Jared April 6, 2009 at 8:08 PM

I had a server who’s SCSI disk drives started throwing r/w errors when an AC “error” caused that particular part of the DC to drop to 5C. Brrrr.

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