Deployment of air-side economizers in data centers is rapidly gaining acceptance to reduce the cost of energy by reducing the hours of operation of CRAC units. Use of air-side economizers has the associated risk of introducing gaseous and particulate contamination into data centers, thus, degrading the reliability of Information Technology (IT) equipment. Sulfur-bearing gaseous contamination is of concern because it attacks the copper and silver metallization of the electronic components causing electrical opens and/or shorts. Particulate contamination with low deliquescence relative humidity is of concern because it becomes wet and therefore electrically conductive under normal data center relative humidity conditions. IT equipment manufacturers guarantee the reliability of their equipment operating in environment within ISA 71.04-2013 severity level G1 and within the ASHRAE recommended temperature-relative humidity envelope. The challenge is to determine the reliability degrading effect of contamination severity levels higher than G1 and the temperature and humidity allowable ranges A1–A3 well outside the recommended range. This paper is a first attempt at addressing this challenge by studying the cumulative corrosion damage to IT equipment operated in an experimental data center located in Dallas, known to have contaminated air with ISA 71.04-2013 severity level G2. The data center is cooled using an air-side economizer. This study serves several purposes including: the correlation of equipment reliability to levels of airborne corrosive contaminants and the study of the degree of reliability degradation when the equipment is operated, outside the recommended envelope, in the allowable temperature-relative humidity range in geographies with high levels of gaseous and particulate contamination. The operating and external conditions of a modular data center, located in a Dallas industrial area, using air-side economizer is described. The reliability degradation of servers exposed to outside air via an airside economizer was determined qualitatively examining the corrosion of components in the servers and comparing the results to the corrosion of components in a non-operating server stored in a protective environment. The corrosion-related reliability of the servers over almost the life of the product was related to continuous temperature and relative humidity for the duration of the experiment. This work provides guidance for data center administration for similar environment. From an industry perspective, it should be noted that in the four years of operation in the hot and humid Dallas climate using only evaporative cooling or fresh air cooling, we have not seen a single server failure in our research pod. That performance should highlight an opportunity for significant energy savings for data center operators in a much broader geographic area than currently envisioned with evaporative cooling.

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