The complex nature of data centres mean that customer information needs to be secure and protected from outside computer viruses and hackers, otherwise millions of accounts could be accessed and breached.
There is another potential danger that can have a far-reaching impact on these huge, linked computer systems, and that is over-heating. It can cause untold damage and result in a major breakdown in service delivery. Key to preventing this from happening is in the design of reliable cooling systems with ‘back-up’ structures in place to ensure continuity of service.
Rob Jacques, Spirotech’s Business Director UK, provides an insight into the complexities surrounding data centres and why only a handful of UK companies are ‘geared-up’ to not only specify cooling systems for this niche sector, but to provide a ‘cradle-to-grave’ service.
In an age when we want everything instantly, stored data holds the key to so much of our everyday life and at the heart of this needs to be the smooth operation of data centres.
Keeping them running around-the-clock requires meticulous design of the cooling systems from the outset, and within the ‘blueprint’, needs to be a back-up / failsafe plan covering such elements as the chiller, pumps and pressurisation. There are additional complexities to be taken into consideration and incorporated into the design, especially in terms of the communication between the plant itself and critical equipment parts.
Quite simply, the bigger the computer, the more it has to be cooled. To put this in perspective, the rise of cloud computers means that a huge amount of energy is required to manage and maintain all the data, with tens of megawatts of computer power needed. This means computers occupy thousands of square metres of space. If the chillers or the cooling programmes were to fail, then data could be lost on a large scale.
Of course, all equipment is subject to fail at some point and that is when the back-up measures need to kick-in and ensure continuity of an effective cooling system.
Spirotech’s control systems feedback data from pumps, valves, pressurisation units and degassers. For example, it can be noticed from the vacuum degasser, how much air has been removed over a certain period and when, as well as provide valuable information revealing trends within the system. The same applies to the pressurisation units, information is gathered over its operational lifespan revealing what the pressure has been, report on any leaks and needs to bring in more water. There is a link between the pressurisation units and vacuum degassers. Any faults can be signalled and sent over to whoever needs the data.
A poorly designed, installed and maintained pressurisation system can lead to negative pressures around the circuit. Air can be drawn in through automatic air vents, gaskets and micro leaks. High pressure situations can lead to water being emitted through the safety valves and the subsequent frequent addition of further raw refill water. The top control unit has the electronic capabilities to effectively manage pressurisation within the system and be programmed to work in parallel with the back-up system.
Air and dirt separators are another key component to maintaining the ongoing health of any heating and ventilation system and keeping pipework clean is essential.
Within this sector, there is a much smaller community serving the data centres. It’s an area not every company wants to be in, or is geared-up to serve.
Spirotech has a depth of knowledge through working with data centre installations to provide an all-encompassing service. It listens closely to the needs of the client, design a bespoke system, and as a leading manufacturer, can supply the right equipment for the project. Customers also have peace of mind that it can supply spares during a tight deadline.
It’s not just about getting the design right from the outset, it’s also about providing the ongoing technical and maintenance support for the project going forward.
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