Inergen release associated with acute hard drive failure rate. What effect causes the damage?

35 pts.
Data Center Fire Suppression
Data center operations
Fire suppression
Server maintenance
From at least three incidents in different parts of the world over the last two years, it is clear that Inergen fire suppression release, whether event driven or maintenance misshap; causes some effect that kills hard drives. Who has done testing to determine what effect is at fault? The agent itself is inert and very close to the composition of sea-level air in specific gravity. Is it the hundreds of PSI discharge? Pressure wave or sound wave? Is it eruption under a raised floor causing a seismic like event? Are jets of product rattling drives in their cases?
I am mildly interested in educated opinions, but what I'd really like to know is if someone has tested the effects in a scientific manner to determine what effect or combination of effects must be mitigated to avoid HDD damage during an Inergen discharge.

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Just came across this white paper from Siemens. It seems to be well done for testing pressure vs sound effects on HDDs.



Unfortunately, that URL doesn’t work (at least in the USA) — it gets redirected to a Siemens home page, and searching the site doesn’t find the referenced white paper either.

Care to summarize the paper?

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  • Gl0bal
    Can't seem to get this link to work. Is anyone able to check it please?
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  • carlosdl
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  • Sekjoeritie
    The Siemens White Paper is no longer valid, it was until july 31. But the tests indicated that various HDD fail after exposure to noise above 120dB. This noise level is reached during fire extinguishing by either Inergen or other extinguishing gas. Also the sound level of the alarms should be added to the source of noise.
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  • Thinman2
    I was a data center manager at a company which also had Inergen. I would be surprised if the pressure increase caused the disks to fail. If the room is correctly designed, with louvers of the correct size, the pressure will only increase slightly. We shared a 12 floor building with other clients. The management of the building would perform yearly maintenance over a holiday weekend which required a shutdown of our data center. After 10 years of annual shutdown, It was not uncommon for disks, power supplies, etc, which had been working OK, to be bad when the systems were brought back up. I think this is the more likely answer.
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  • milazim
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  • mlrobin

    Acoustical noise related damage to HDDs is limited to inert gas system discharges; IBM has reported dozens of cases.  There is not a single doucmented case of acoustical noise damage related to the discharge of halocarbon agents (FM-200, FE-25, FE-13, Novec 1230).  In the case of FM-200, this corresponds to over 20 years of in-field use. 

    The cause of the damage appears to be a combination of decibel level, frequency, and sound duration. I have been involved in a large number of clean agent test programs and the high pressure inert gas system discharges are quite loud, and are quite loud for a long time. Discharges of the lower pressure halocarbon agent systems are much quieter in my experience (lower dB level) and don't last very long due to the 10 s maximum discharge requirements of the standards.

    Mark L. Robin, PhD

    DuPont Chemicals & Fluoroproducts

    March 2, 2014



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