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Server Room Planning

Server Room Planning

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Now more than ever, information is the lifeblood of corporations and government organizations, and the data center is the heart that keeps information flowing. A data center designer's job is not getting any easier, as they are responsible for maintaining uptime, maximizing throughput, energy efficiency and protecting mission critical information with limited resources. As it is with any technology, data center design elements are always evolving. One thing that stays the same, however, is the threat of fire in data centers. A data rated modular server vault is the solid foundation upon which a sustainable and efficient data center can be built. Over time, it is likely that every component in the data center will be replaced by newer and more powerful equipment. One exception to that rule is the Class 125 server vault into which all of the new equipment will be installed.

When designing a data center, the size of the server room is just one of many design considerations. How many racks are needed now? How many will be needed five years from now? One of the benefits of the modular panel design of Firelock's server vaults is they can be expanded in the future. By building the server vault according to current and near-future needs, a much more efficient data center is the result. An oversized server room requires more energy to maintain the proper environment and is counterproductive to green data center initiatives.

A major decision in designing a server room is whether to use a solid floor or install a raised floor. The traditional raised floor design can be protected with a Firelock® server vault. A custom-built door stanchion with a raised threshold is installed to match the level of the raised floor in the vault. Recent trends in server room design have made the solid floor option a better alternative in many cases. The higher density of equipment in server racks has increased the weight per rack to the point where floor load capacity is a problem for some raised floors. Raised floors in seismically active zones also need cross-bracing and other reinforcements to prevent collapse in an earthquake. The increase in the volume of power and data cables needed to service the high density racks is another concern. If all of these cables need to be routed under the floor, the airflow in the plenum areas can be choked down to the point where cooling is insufficient. There is also increased time and effort required to change or add new cables under the floor. Cleanliness is another issue with raised floors in server rooms, since dirt and dust accumulates in the plenum areas. To facilitate overhead cable management systems, Firelock® installs a Unimount ceiling grid in its server vaults. Unistrut is welded to the roof panel joints to provide strong and convenient mounting points for cable management systems. The flexibility of the system makes it easy to change the configuration of cable management systems as needs change over time.

Many data center HVAC specialists can run thermodynamic analysis software to accurately predict the hot and cold areas in a server room. Firelock® can locate the fireproof damper assemblies for air supply and return ducts where needed to optimize climate control functionality. The hot exhaust air can even be used to save on heating costs in the winter when the warm air is ducted throughout the building. This "recycling" of the heat generated by server equipment can be an asset in designing a green data center. If a "split" HVAC system is selected for cooling the server vault, Firelock® installs an insulated coolant line penetration that maintains the fireproof integrity of the vault chamber. The penetration can be installed wherever it is needed, so the placement of the air handler unit on the inside of the vault is in the most efficient location.

The installation of a waterless fire suppression system is highly recommended for server vaults. Even the "dry pipe" type of water sprinklers, where water is not released into the sprinkler head pipes until a fire alarm has been activated, is very risky to have in a server room full of costly IT equipment. There is also the problem of water pipes penetrating the vault structure, which would conduct heat into the vault chamber in a fire. In contrast, a well-designed fire suppression system is completely contained within the server vault and is much better suited to protecting sensitive electronic equipment. For example, the Novec 1230 fire suppression system is specifically designed for data center applications. This 3M product takes a different approach to extinguishing fires than the typical oxygen depletion systems on the market. When activated, the Novec 1230 fluid is sprayed into the server room as a mist. This fluid is 25-times more evaporative than water, and it is the evaporative cooling effect that takes all surface temperatures below the point where combustion can occur. Novec 1230 is totally non-conductive and leaves no residue when it evaporates, so it is ideal for protecting IT equipment. Another advantage is the ecologically-friendly nature of this fire suppression system. It is rated as a NOAEL (No Observable Adverse Effects Level) product by the EPA, which is helpful when building a green data center. More importantly, the non-toxic nature of Novec 1230 makes it is safe for personnel who may be present during a discharge.

Of course, this is just a brief overview of the many decisions that must be made when designing a new server room or upgrading an existing facility. Selecting the hardware and software for data storage, networking, security and other functions is a major task in itself. Investing in a Firelock® modular server vault to protect all of this IT infrastructure and the valuable information it holds is the easy part.




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