Data center facilities pro

Jan 26 2009   10:17PM GMT

Data center corrosion: Bring it on?

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

CHICAGO — Joseph Prisco, an IBM engineer, yesterday told ASHRAE TC 9.9 members that it might be a good idea to start monitoring data center pollution — particulate and gaseous contamination that could cause IT equipment corrosion.

In particular, Prisco singled out ionic chemical compounds such as sulfur and chlorine salts, as well as outside gases such as sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide that can make their way into the data center. He said all data centers should start looking to prevent this data center pollution from happening, and that those facilities using airside economizers should definitely be in on the mix.

William Tschudi, a member of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, had some questions about that. LBNL did a study about two years ago that found no discernable damage to IT equipment from using outside air to run a data center. He asked Prisco yesterday whether equipment corrosion happened quickly enough to shorten the normal server refresh rate. Prisco said it depends on the environment.

Another angle: Who cares?

Christian Belady, the principal power and cooling architect at Microsoft, said he’s not that concerned about equipment corrosion. He said a better way to look at it is to expect the refresh rate to be short. That way you can replace the equipment, which tends to get more energy efficient with each iteration. So in this way, Belady was almost encouraging the data center pollution. He was saying that equipment corrosion could help overall data center efficiency.

It may be good to keep those comments in context. Microsoft buys tens of thousands of servers every year. Most of them are x86 servers. They’re relatively cheap and therefore disposable. In the case of more-expensive Unix and mainframe servers, it may be more prudent to keep an eye on the corrosive dusts and gases that can find their way into the equipment.

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  • Mjoe
    The point of risk vs. cost vs. equipment life has again been well stated. But here is one more thought. Air can be filtered. Surgical operating rooms run on 100% outside air. Why would a DC require more strict regulation than the sterile environment of an OR? I have never seen a DC operator in mask and scrubs.
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