High Availability Series: Environmental

By January 24, 2013High Availability

There are a plethora of environmental concerns that we have to watch out for to maintain high availability (HA).  In the previous article, we discussed power as an example of a typical day-to-day HA issue.

HVAC (notably the VAC part of that)

Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) is a very serious concern for HA, and not just for the obvious reasons.  Servers run hot. While more efficient components keep coming out, engineers use this to cram more of them into one space. Intel recently said it’s safe to run datacenters at up to 100 degrees (given proper hardware and conditions). While that may be, keeping the temperature regulated is important. Out-of-control temperatures can cause component failure as well as void warranties. Redundant systems are a must then; but avoid a couple major mistakes people frequently make.  Outfit your datacenter with a special HVAC system; the basic ones reverse the air during the seasons and therefore will not provide year-round temperature regulation. It is also important to get your server room’s HVAC on redundant power.

Optimum humidity, as per current industry trends, should be between 40 and 50 percent.  Low humidity causes static electricity, and high humidity causes oxidation (rust). Dust and airborne particles can clog up fans, cause excessive heat, and maybe cause shorts. Ensure your HVAC also filters the air and watch for building construction; drywall dust gets everywhere.

Water

We all know water doesn’t go with electricity; yet this is frequently an issue because people don’t think of all of the scenarios.  Look all around your datacenter for sources of water: above the ceiling tiles, the roof, nearby bathrooms, air conditioner condensers (and the units themselves), and if you have chillers. Consider your location in relation to flood plains and waterways in general.  Also remember that if there is roof construction, there will be leaks.

Power

Power was addressed as an example in the previous general concepts post.  The key thing that should be added here is that it’s not enough to have power, you also have to have clean power…and we aren’t talking solar panels.  Clean power is power that doesn’t fluctuate much from a voltage standpoint and has a good natural sine wave.  Realistically, it takes a lot of knowledge and time to test for clean power, so consult a professional.

Vibration

Something that is rarely considered in datacenters is the vibration that comes from the operation of equipment.  Vibration of a single hard disk is, as a whole, negligible but vibration of a hundred hard drives can add up.  Vibration affects a lot of things in a lot of different ways.  Devices with moving parts directly feel the vibration, in that it influences their rotation and movement; which can add up over time to impact life expectancy or cause errors.  Vibration of non-moving parts is much less profound, but in poorly constructed or assembled devices can actually cause screws to loosen or fall out. Take measures or buy products that mitigate this.

For help in considering the details of the high availability of your datacenter, contact us today!