Posted on 3 Comments

How a Fire-Rated Power Distribution System Reduces Risk

How a Fire-Rated Power Distribution System Reduces Risk - AnD Cable Management Blog

Fires are not super common in data centers, but they do happen, and most often when they do, they are not reported (at least not in the news). Much of the reason for this is that fires are usually small and quickly contained. It is unusual for a data center to become fully engulfed. 

Even when such fires are reported on, details can be sketchy, causes, and investigations hidden behind NDA’s and are therefore difficult to learn from. While companies want to retain control over the narrative and how it impacts their reputation, the information around fires can and should be shared within the industry to prevent further similar events. And there are some things you can do now – such as remote monitoring – to keep your staff and facilities safe. 

Remote monitoring can help your data center keep staff and equipment safe from fire damage

The OVHCloud Incident

On 10 March 2021, near midnight local time, a fire started in the OVHCloud SBG2 data center, quickly got out of control, and even damaged two other nearby data centers. The fire started near two UPS units, one of which was worked on that same day. 

The company is considered a European alternative to the giant US cloud operators and is a key participant in the European Union’s GaiaX cloud project. Data centers serve some key functions in the French government, the UK vehicle licensing department, and others. Operations were directly impacted by the fire, although the company did have backup data centers, and quickly restored service to most customers. 

But poor design and operational practices that seem to sacrifice dependability for innovation have caused some issues, including major outages, for OVHCloud. The fire just punctuated an ongoing issue but also caused many data center operators and customers to pause and think about something probably not mentioned often enough: the risk of fire in data centers. 

What are the Fire Risks?

When broken down there are a few key fire risks common to all data centers, and most of the time they are relatively easy to mitigate.

  • Electrical Equipment – temperature changes can increase this risk, and of course, a source of risk is also backup power equipment. Generator rooms that contain gas or diesel fumes can create intense fires quickly that would be hard to fight.  
  • Cables – data center power cables are usually not enough to start a fire by themselves, but a damaged cable can release sparks or overheat and cause a small fire or thermal incident that can then spread. Proper cable management and monitoring of underfloor and overhead cabling can help prevent these events. 
  • HVAC Infrastructure – heating and cooling units present some fire danger to data centers and should be inspected often and monitored carefully. Its operation is also critical to maintaining optimal temperatures in the data center to prevent other thermal events. 
  • External Fire Sources – California wildfires. The recent blaze in Boulder. The Texas fires last year. All are examples of external fire risk to data centers, specifically those Edge data centers in less populated areas. 

Most of these can be controlled by properly managing the data center, but there are some events that can only be prepared for. Having fire suppression systems and plans in place is critical regardless of the likelihood of the danger. 

Fire Prevention Systems

Of course, the best prescription for dealing with fire is prevention. The key to this in the modern data center environment is a complete remote monitoring system. The A150 Network Monitoring System is designed specifically for data centers, IT rooms, and confidential lab operators with virtual graphics showing temperature, rack power consumption, and humidity. 

But most importantly for this topic, the system provides alerts for mission critical events like the sudden temperature changes associated with fires, smoke alarms, and sprinkler activation alerts. You can also be alerted to things like power spikes, a rise in server temperatures, or even UPS unit failures so you can make emergency repairs and mitigate fire risk before one starts. 

The reality is that anything you can do to prevent fire before it happens is preferrable than anything you can do to suppress and extinguish an active blaze. However, those are contingencies you need to prepare for. 

Fire Rated Power Distribution Systems

There are two primary principles when it comes to any fire safety plan, anywhere. They are the two P’s: prevent (which we discussed above) and protect. Part of both of these is the vital role of uninterrupted power. Enter the role of a fire-rated busbar trunking system.

These systems can be operational for a period of up to two or even three hours depending on their ratings. They’re also cased in a fire-retardant self-extinguishing resin that essentially protects the power supply itself. The idea is that this will give first responders time to extinguish the fire before it can spread.

How do you choose the right one for your data center? Well, there are established guidelines that indicate the type of fire, the duration they were tested for, how they endured water spray, such as that from sprinkler systems, and the power supply integrity in a fire situation.

Technically, they look like this: 

  • BS IEC 60331-1: 2019 – Tests for electric cables under fire conditions; circuit integrity
  • BS 8602:2013 – Method for assessment of fire integrity of cast resin busbar trunking systems for the safety-critical power distribution to life safety and firefighting systems
  • BS 6387:2013 (CWZ Protocol) – Test method for resistance to fire of cables required to maintain circuit integrity under fire conditions. Fire-resistant cables are classified by a sequence of symbols (for example, CWZ) in accordance with the fire resistance criteria they meet, the selected test temperature, and the length of the fire resistance test per BS 6387
  • NFPA 75 – Standard for the fire protection of IT equipment
  • ISO 834 – Fire resistance tests- elements of building construction
  • ATEX & IECEx – ATEX certification is given to equipment that has gone through rigorous testing outlined by European Union directives and proved safe to use in specific environments with explosive atmospheres, according to the zone/s they are certified to be used in.

The most important part of this discussion is the planning stage. It’s vital to have a disaster plan in place and address both prevention and keeping a fire from happening in the first place to protect the data center and minimize the fire’s impact. 

The more we learn from data center fires, the more likely we are to be able to prevent them going forward, and mitigate the damage in the rare event they do occur. 

Need some advice on cable management, remote monitoring, or other aspects of data center planning? Contact us – we’d love to start a conversation about how we can help you with your data center management plan. 

Physical Layer Environment Network Security Monitoring and Control

A150 Physical Layer Environment Network Security Monitoring and Control System Brochure

Full visibility, network security and control of your physical layer environment. Monitor your entire hybrid cloud and IT infrastructure from a cloud-based, integrated dashboard:

  • Introducing the A150 System
  • A150 System Architecture – High-Level Overview
  • A150 System Features
  • System Controller Hardware and Specifications
  • Monitoring Controllers, Probes and Sensors

About the Author

Louis Chompff - Founder, AnD Cable Products, Rack and Cable ManagementLouis Chompff – Founder & Managing Director, AnD Cable Products
Louis established AnD Cable Products – Intelligently Designed Cable Management in 1989. Prior to this he enjoyed a 20+ year career with a leading global telecommunications company in a variety of senior data management positions. Louis is an enthusiastic inventor who designed, patented and brought to market his innovative Zero U cable management racks and Unitag cable labels, both of which have become industry-leading network cable management products. AnD Cable Products only offer products that are intelligently designed, increase efficiency, are durable and reliable, re-usable, easy to use or reduce equipment costs. He is the principal author of the Cable Management Blog, where you can find network cable management ideas, server rack cabling techniques and rack space saving tips, data center trends, latest innovations and more.
Visit https://andcable.com or shop online at https://andcable.com/shop/

Posted on Leave a comment

The Impact on Data Center Services – Before and After COVID

The Impact on Data Center Services - Before and After Covid - Cable Management Blog

The COVID pandemic has impacted nearly every industry, and while some have been impacted negatively, others are thriving. The key to all of these things is the ability to adapt. Nowhere is this truer than in data centers. The impact of COVID on data center services has been significant, and those in this “essential industry” can’t work remotely for the most part.

Jump to Section:

The Impact on Data Center Services - Before and After Covid - Cable Management Blog
The Impact on Data Center Services – Before and After Covid

The truth is, troubled industries like airlines, hotels, travel sites, and restaurants were not huge consumers anyway.

“The upside cases are actually higher than any of the drawdowns coming in from the troubled sectors,” said Sami Badri, Senior Equity Analyst at Credit Suisse said during a CAPRE presentation. “These troubled sectors were not big customers in the first place, whereas the newer industries that represent a large cash flow stream for data center services are flexing even larger than they ever have before. This is creating a new high-tide environment for demand for the overall tech sector.”

While the financial impact has been positive overall, it has created an increased demand, which has an direct impact on what data centers are and how they operate. What has that impact been, and what are data centers doing about it?

Increased Demand in Unusual Places

“Almost as soon as lockdown started,” David Issel, the asset manager at a Comcast data center known as a “headend” told us, “this place was running at 95%. Fans and our HVAC system was at capacity.”

The Work from Home or rather Work from Anywhere demands of COVID have increased the need for residential reliability and speed on a larger scale. What was evenings of surfing and streaming are now days filled with workers tethered to their home offices, computers, standing desks, and dependent on their routers and home WiFi in ways we never would have thought of in January of 2020.

Data Centers Services have been quick to respond and increase capacity. “Even though the components are getting smaller, the units themselves are getting larger,” Issel told us. “We’re using 23” racks instead of 19” racks, and that means it’s more important than ever to conserve space.”

The other issue? It takes people to add hardware and capacity to a data center, but only so many people can be present in the facility and still remain socially distanced and adhering to mask requirements. Keeping employees safe is a top priority.

Changing Attitude in Lagging Industries

“Some industries have never been well architected to handle work from home or organize a virtual workforce,” Badri told us. “Three of those sectors are healthcare, government and education. We’ve been hearing that government IT spending pledges alone are up more than 20 percent. Education budgets are also increasing and shifting up. Other categories playing catch-up include healthcare, which has been a very big pain point for the U.S.”

This includes things like telemedicine, schools that are either operating 100% virtually or at least offering distance options to students and parents alike. Higher education is struggling the most, as universities train staff, shift to online platforms, and prepare for an entirely new education platform.

While even the Federal government has been lagging in using technology, local, regional, and state governments find themselves even further behind. The question is whether these industries will continue to advance digitally or whether, as the impact of COVID inevitably recedes, the demand will recede with it.

The Need for Speed

Consumers and others often confuse bandwidth and speed. However, there is a need for both, as more people are online at the same time than under normal circumstances. This is bandwidth, or the capacity of the network to handle volume.

Speed is about how fast data can be delivered. Both are vital for consumers. Imagine a neighborhood populated with day traders whose income can be impacted by millisecond delays. That same neighborhood might be filled with school children doing school work online during work hours.

For data centers and companies like Comcast and other internet providers, it is about the ability to scale. “We’ve got plans for getting ahead, and we’re working on expanding HVAC and capacity,” David Issel told us about his particular headend.

This need for speed may mean that new data centers and headends need to be built in order for companies to keep up.

Coming 5G and Other Advancements

A digital revolution and a move to more remote operations, companies like Zoom, Slack, and other communication platforms were things many thought would take years to manifest. Due to COVID, this digital revolution has manifested in months instead.

But there was already a revolution on the horizon. The 5G and IoT revolution was already putting pressure on data centers to adapt and be ready for a new, faster normal. 5G is about more than just speed though. It makes a data center more flexible in more ways.

“The flexibility includes things such as the desegregation of the control and user plains of the network and also migration towards distributed baseband processing and the radio access network (RAN). In turn, this leads to opportunities for virtualization of RAN network functions and it enables the convergence of the RAN into the data center space,” Mike Wolfe, Vice President of Wireless Network Engineering at CommScope explained in a recent DCD article, How 5G will Affect the Structure of Data Centers?

“What this means is there could be a lot of smaller data centers, distributed geographically in such a way that’s going to make them a little bit more difficult to manage. Connectivity will be important in terms of how we do that,” Jamie Birdnow, also of CommScope shared in the webinar.

While it is safe to say that data center services will require huge changes to accommodate and enable 5G, there is still a lot that is unknown.

For example, we don’t know is how applications are likely to develop over a number of. Some things will not evolve as expected, and there are surprises. Autonomous cars will require far more sophistication than remote surgeries.

The key is to understand that data centers were already in a state of change, and the COVID crisis has only accelerated that.

The Bottom Line in Data Center Services

The data center industry has experienced a focus shift due to COVID, and as with any revolution during a crisis, it comes with challenges. That means the efficient use of space, the expansion of capacity more rapidly than planned, and employing other techniques to “future proof” data center services.

Virtual connectivity is a must,” Badri told us. “It’s no longer a debate. It’s now a case of survival and relevance and productivity. You’re starting to see permanent shifts.”

That speaks back to David Issel and Comcast, not only scrambling to catch up and expand, but to prepare for whatever tomorrow may bring.

A key to Issel’s success is his partnership with Louis and AnD Cable Products. Not only does his data center depend on their products and reliability, but they’ve also worked together to create custom hardware that is “perfect for the application,” Issel told us.

It’s these types of cooperation and efficiency, like the ZeroU Horizontal Cable Managers AnD Cable Products offers, which allow technicians to work more easily, increase the life of cables, and more.

If you want to “future proof” your data center services and you are looking for a physical hardware supplier that will be there for you as you expand and adapt, contact us at AnD Cable Products today. We’d love to talk about how we can best work together.


About the Author

Louis Chompff - Founder, AnD Cable Products, Rack and Cable ManagementLouis Chompff, Founder & Managing Director, AnD Cable Products
Louis established AnD Cable Products – Intelligently Designed Cable Management in 1989. Prior to this he enjoyed a 20+ year career with a leading global telecommunications company in a variety of senior data management positions. Louis is an enthusiastic inventor who designed, patented and brought to market his innovative Zero U cable management racks and Unitag cabel labels, both of which have become industry-leading network cable management products. AnD Cable Products only offer products that are intelligently designed, increase efficiency, are durable and reliable, re-usable, easy to use or reduce equipment costs. He is the principal author of the Cable Management Blog, where you can find network cable management ideas, server rack cabling techniques and space saving tips, data center trends, latest innovations and more.
Visit https://andcable.com or shop online https://andcable.com/shop/

Looking for Blogs on Co-Location? Top 10 Colocation Blogs