Derek Sandahl, Global Product Manager, Engineered Fire Suppression Systems, Johnson Controls
Data centers are used by a wide range of industries and are heavily relied upon to store and disseminate timely, accurate data to customers around the world. But what if the data center’s hard drive disks (HDDs), the primary means of information storage, stopped working and could no longer process information efficiently, or all stored data was lost? While an event of this magnitude is hard to imagine, it is not unlikely that it could occur – especially with the most ominous threat to HDDs living within the walls of the data center.
That hidden threat? Acoustics.
The Hidden Risk of Acoustics
Acoustics in data centers can be a result of many different things, including loud alarms, supersonic discharge from fire suppression systems, and even air circulation fans . These noises, along with other environmental sounds, cause vibrations within data centers and have a damaging effect on HDDs.
Due to recent advancements in IT and electronic equipment technologies – made to keep up with the demand for increased storage capacity and efficiency – HDDs have become more sensitive to acoustics than ever before. Recent testing has revealed that when hard drives of any make and model are exposed to decibels or frequencies of sound higher than 110dBZ, their ability to process and store data declines at a rapid pace. This means that acoustics, along with their subsequent vibrations, interrupt HDD data processing and have a significant impact on overall HDD performance. These interruptions not only lead to potential data gaps, compromised data quality and integrity or total data loss, but also put data centers at a greater risk of downtime.
In order to maintain perpetual uptime and prevent disruptions that result in significant loss to customers, the acoustic levels of the various systems within the data center must be identified. This assessment determines which systems are outputting acoustics over the 110dBZ threshold and informs the plan to reduce acoustics and protect hard drive disks throughout the data center.
Understanding the hidden risk of acoustics in data centers and the significant threat they pose to hard drive disk performance is critical to protecting HDDs and customer data
How To Help Operators Address The Risk of Sound:
Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce acoustics and mitigate the risk and threat to data center’s hard drive disks and save data quality and integrity.
Acoustic Suppression Technologies
Acoustic suppression technologies reduce sonic shockwaves from fire suppression systems and vastly improve a data center’s ability to protect HDDs and other sensitive electronic equipment from the impact of sound. These technologies are specifically designed with advanced noise-reducing features to lower sound power output while still maintaining the required suppression system flow rate, discharge time and protection of the protected space. On average acoustic suppression technologies, and more specifically acoustic nozzles, reduce sound by more than 20 decibels and in-turn minimize the risk of damage to HDDs in data centers.
Softer construction materials and sound-absorbing panels
When designing a new data center or making upgrades to an existing center, room dampening materials on the walls, ceilings and floors can help reduce vibrations within the room. Softer construction materials including carpet, foam padding, fiberglass insulation and softer wood are great options for new construction, while sound-absorbing panels are good for reducing vibrations in data centers with existing infrastructure. Additionally, isolations mounts, instead of rigid metal mounts, can be used to store HDDs and prevent vibrations from transmitting through the racks into the HDDs.
Relocate Hard Drive Disks
The closer HDDs are to the source of the acoustic noise, the greater the amount of acoustic energy is directly transferred into HDDs as vibrations. Locating HDDs as far away as possible from sound sources such as alarms, sprinklers, fire suppressions, and HVAC vents reduces the risk of exposure to acoustics above the 110dBZ threshold.
For example, if HDDs are in proximity to or in the direct path of the fire suppression discharge agent, they are at risk of being exposed to acoustics as high as 130dBZ, or the sound of a commercial airplane at takeoff. Moving the HDDs away from the discharge agent decreases their risk of being exposed to the harmful vibration that full 130dBZ of sound may cause. Furthermore, acoustic suppression nozzle technology can be installed within the fire suppression system to reduce the discharge sound by 20dBZ, bringing the decibel level to the 110dBZ threshold for optimal HDD performance.
Get Prepared Now:
Understanding the hidden risk of acoustics in data centers and the significant threat they pose to hard drive disk performance is critical to protecting HDDs and customer data. By taking the necessary steps to reduce acoustics and mitigate the risk, perpetual uptime for data centers is maintained and HDDs continue to process and store data without interruption.