Tuesday, 14 January 2014

NextGen early stage smoke detection reduces risk & prevents DC downtime

Outages, the constant threat

Tasked with providing a 24/7/365 service, data centre managers are well aware of fire as a potential hazard. Providing effective fire protection for a data centre poses some interesting challenges. In a large data centre up to 40kW of heat can be generated in some server racks, so an overheat condition can develop extremely rapidly if there is failure in the heat removal equipment. If an automatic extinguishing system is activated, the clean-up requirements can be as disruptive as the fire it has put out.

In a recent study of US data centres by the Ponemon Institute, the cost of downtime has increased significantly in the last three years. Each unplanned outage now costs an average of US$7,900 per minute and lasts for 86 minutes. It costs around $690,200 in damage to mission-critical data, the impact of downtime on productivity, damage to equipment, legal and regulatory repercussions and lost confidence by key stakeholders.

The problem: the ever-present danger of fire

The data centre is not a friendly environment for traditional methods of smoke detection. With high currents, overheating cabling is a very real issue. Computer room air conditioners (CRAC) create very high airflows, often causing stratification and smoke dilution. The large temperature variations between the air in the hot and cold aisles also cause smoke detection issues.

A solution: earliest warning detection from next generation aspiration systems

The ultra-high sensitivity of an aspiration system is the most effective technology to give maximum warning time for the impacted equipment to be taken offline and data to be moved; however, historically, false alarms have been a problem. Typically, the initial response to a fire alarm is to power down the affected equipment, making a false alarm as problematic as a real fire.

Next generation aspiration detection systems, such as FAAST, are able to respond to an overheating cable hours before smoke becomes visible. The latest include sophisticated filtration to deliver ultra-high sensitivity (as much as 0.0015% obs/m) without the danger of false alarms.

Systems also now have TCP/IP connectivity, enabling remote interrogation and monitoring. Alerts can be automatically broadcasted by email, a benefit to data centre managers. Modbus protocols are also embedded, enabling seamless integration with DCIM systems without any additional hardware or software and delivering comprehensive communications with the fire control panel.

Standards

The latest aspiration systems are required to meet EN54-20 Class A, B and C requirements. They can protect 2000 m2 in a Class A applications such as a data centres, making them more scalable and able and to address the key concerns in these areas:

• Potential revenue loss
• Smoke, fire and water damage
• False alarms / downtime
• False discharge of extinguishing systems
• High air velocity environments

To find out more

Aspiration detection providers such as Honeywell, offer free of charge, CPD approved seminars on the latest aspiration technologies. These are aimed at consultants, specifiers and installers working in the fire system design, architectural, mechanical and electrical contracting and facilities management sectors. Go to www.faast-detection.com to find out more.

DATACENTRE.ME guest blog by Tim Checketts, Honeywell


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