Originally posted in ficolo.com in 2020.
A fire in a data center can cause irreparable devastation and consequently fire protection systems are a basic requirement. Only one type of system protects the service with immediate action when an anomaly is detected, though. Most systems initially raise an alarm at the early warning and do not initiate further action, because extinguishing may cause a lot of damage.
Traditional water-based systems focus on protecting facility and personnel, which in itself is good, but they have a high risk of affecting the service. Gaseous inert fire suppression systems can cause shockwaves. The consequences of choosing the wrong solution can be disastrous and very costly. An optimal solution would cause no damage when triggered by accident. Moreover, in addition to protecting people and protecting assets, it would be beneficial to protect the service and ensure operation. Preventative fire protection based on reducing oxygen helps prevent fire and avoids causing collateral damage.
Active Fire Protection – Immediate Action
For The Air Ficolo has chosen an active fire protection system. The system is completely water-free and based on early detection. Importantly, it can react before a fire breaks out. How is that possible?
The most important principle of the system is to act before there is fire and develop such conditions in which fire is even impossible to ignite. The system samples tiny particles from the air to detect possible fires. The system works by lowering oxygen levels with the help of nitrogen immediately when abnormal conditions are detected. As the system works at an early stage, lowering of the oxygen level is controlled ensuring there is no harm to people. Oxygen level is lowered below fire ignition point, making it impossible for the fire to start (see picture).
Why did Ficolo choose this system? It is the only fire protection method that enables full data center operation at all times, even in case of fire. It protects the service and ensures business continuity thanks to its preventive actions. Nitrogen is a normal gas in our atmosphere, it is non-toxic, therefore the system has no side effects for people working in the data center. And, in the event of false alarm, it is a completely safe system. Conventional fire protection systems react differently, starting with a local alarm, then a fire department alarm and finally triggering the extinguishing system. The active fire protection works one step ahead.
Fire Protection Systems
- Aqueous-based systems might be widely used and harmless to people, but water and electronic system are not a great combination. False alarm may have massive consequences. Fog and water mist-based systems claim to cause less damage to surrounding equipment, but are not an option for a fully water-free environment.
- Gas-based systems are widely used inside data centers. These systems use either inert gas or clean agent gas. Inert gases are typically mixture of argon and nitrogen which replace oxygen to snuffle out fire. Clean agent gas extinguishes by absorbing the heat. They are typically more harmless to people and data center infrastructure than inert gases. Gases as such cause no harm to a data center, but especially in the argon-based systems the gas might burst out with such pressure and noise that it causes vibration and damage to hard discs. This has been behind failures causing service outages for stock exchanges and banks for instance, even due to false alarms.
- Oxygen-lowering active fire protection reacts immediately when an anomaly is detected to lower the oxygen level in stages. This is the only system to protect the service and completely avoid collateral damage in case of a false alarm.
Putting Business Continuity First
The data center infrastructure selections can tell you a lot about the ability of the provider to ensure customer’s business continuity. You can evaluate whether the choices are done only based on minimum standards or whether they also protect the service in addition to people and assets. A knowledgeable data center provider knows how to take all scenarios into consideration. And although fire suppression is just one system, it is the whole palette that makes the combination and how they all fit together.
Ficolo wants to make sure that all components support customers and their business continuity. Please contact us at [email protected] to discuss further.