Clean Agent System: Rack Mounted Data Center Fire Suppression Benefits

Posted by Zach Nelson on Jan 4, 2016 8:00:00 AM

Watch Lee Kaiser speak about trending technology in clean agent fire suppression. In the video excerpt below, you can watch as he describes the advantages and disadvantages of rack mounted fire suppression systems in data centers. 

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As we start to talk about rack mounted suppression, we're also seeing some integration of air sampling right into the rack. But we're really seeing that with the rack mounted suppression units where they're combining suppression with air sampling smoke detections. So I want to quickly talk about EXXFIRE.

EXXFIRE has the EXXFIRE 750 unit and this is a nitrogen gas suppression system. It mounts on the unit, so it's a rack mounted suppression unit. And how it works is you have a small igniter that gets an electrical signal and--get this--it starts a fire to put out a fire. So, understand that. You start a little fire inside this cylinder and it burns through this caked material. As it burns through it, it produces nitrogen gas and then it gets discharged out through a tube into the cabinet and can flood the cabinet with nitrogen and extinguish it that way.

This is a very new product. This is a product that really isn't even available yet. Later this year, it will become available. Like I said, it combines detection with that. It's got an on-board battery backup system with it--very, very new. I like to think of this as bleeding edge technology, not cutting edge technology. So maybe we're not quite ready to move to that.

Something we might be ready to move to in really, really large data centers is the Minimax OneU product. This is a rack mounted suppression system that fits in a standard data rack. It's 1U tall, if you know that term from IT (that's how they get its name), but it's basically an inch and ¾ tall. It looks just like a server installed in the rack. It mounts in the upper two thirds of that rack and then, assuming that it's an enclosed rack with a door, it will flood that unit with a little charge of Novec 1230 that it has on board. It's got an aspirating, or air sampling smoke detector built into it. For activation, it's typically installed standalone from the fire alarm system and can be really purchased right by the IT department and added on as supplementary protection for target equipment racks. The other thing to know about this is that, while it does have an on-board battery, it's typically just powered from the IT equipment itself. So, it plugs in--it's got a cord and plug connection to the power distribution units in the cabinet just like your servers would have.

So, as you think about doing rack mounted suppression, some things I want you to grasp: Advantages. You can target critical cabinets and protect those. Pretty simple operation, pre-engineered design, we don't have to do a lot with that and they can give you a power shunt signal. So, think emergency power off--I can shut down the power to that equipment from those units and they can help with their air sampling smoke detection to locate the fire in specific racks, certainly something that can happen with that.

But the disadvantages are probably larger in my eyes. They require a primary system for the room. So, it's not as though I can install rack mounted units and get away from my total flooding clean agent system or my sprinkler system. I still need to have a primary system for the room. None of this rack mounted equipment is UL listed or FM approved yet. So, the Fire Marshals in your jurisdiction may have a problem with that. That may be a big issue and then it's just, again, limited only to installed cabinets. It's our fire experience that in the data center space, about 10 percent of the time, the source or the ignition source for the fire is the IT equipment itself. The remaining percentage of that, mostly, it's the high-voltage sources within the room. So, the rack itself may not be the thing that burns within your data centers. It may be power distribution, power panels, UPS cabinets, those types of things that actually cause a fire and you may not have the rack mounted unit installed in that. So, really think about when might you install rack mounted suppression versus a total flood clean agent system.

This is part 10 of the Trending Technology Clean Agent Systems series. Watch the previous parts at the links below:

You can also watch our previous series on Dialer and Communicator Technology Changes at the links below:

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Topics: Clean Agent, Technology Changes

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