Data centers can reduce fire risk by sucking out oxygen

Data centers can reduce fire risk by sucking out oxygen
Humphrey Cheung
March 19, 2007 14:41

Data centers can reduce the risk of a fire by reducing the amount of oxygen in the air. IDG reports that several vendors at Cebit are showing off fire suppression and prevention equipment that reduces the oxygen ratio in normal air. Air normally contains around 21% oxygen, but this can be lowered a few percentage points, with the appropriate equipment. At around 16% percent oxygen, most fires won't even start.

The firms say a low oxygen content server room is still safe for humans and liken it to a jaunt up a tall mountain. Mountain climbers frequently experience oxygen deprivation because the air is thinner in higher altitudes. Of course, data center gurus will have to deal with both bone-chilling temperatures along with low oxygen.

Anyone seen the movie Backdraft !!!
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  1. Talking as someone who spends (almost) every Sunday up a mountain...

    Really fit hikers often don't notice the effects of reduced oxygen for a while, they just breathe more heavily. This is only up to a point. [/Kilimanjaro was not fun]

    The rich/sponsored ones could probably keep hiking in a vacuum with all that equipment...
  2. That's about as useful as teats on a bull....

    OK, one lowers the oxy content in a data center... But what about the surroundings?

    Personally I've never heard of a major fire that started internally in a datacenter. Not to say they haven't happened, but ...

    Our datacenters are protected with energen systems, if that ever happens, and get out of the door in 15 seconds or risk passing out.

    Another way to reduce fire is to reduce the ambient heat. So an atmosphere of liquid nitrogen would do both at the same time, eh?
  3. Keeping the room permanently under Halon (or similar) is the way to go. If some tech needs to work on a server, cycle the atmosphere. Cycle it back when the tech is done.

    LN2? I don't know what mechanical effect (if any) LN2 would have on a 15,000RPM SCSI disk array. Besides, atmosphere cycling with LN2 is... difficult, and permanently flooding a room in the stuff is going to need all sorts of interesting support equipment - compressors, pressure tanks, and so on.
  4. I say just use a sealed data center filled with Halon.

    How often do servers catch fire anyway?
  5. I have seen a server catch fire, but that was only because a tech was playing silly buggers on a Compaq Proliant dual P1 that we'd replaced. It was quite... spectacular.

    Thermite + server = pretty fireworks.
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