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E4 Environmental Conditioning and Alert Systems

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Facilities Management ensures that physical conditions within the Data Centres or computer rooms are maintained at the correct levels for optimal IT Operations. These conditions include:

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Air quality
  • Freedom from environmental risks, such as fire, flooding, etc.

Temperature is maintained through heating and cooling systems, as well as the layout of the equipment in the facility. This will require the following activities:

  • Ascertaining the heat output for CIs and their optimal operating temperature.
  • Identifying the total cooling requirement for all equipment in the facility as well as for specific items. For example, an air conditioner may be able to keep a Data Centre at a constant temperature, but there may be equipment that needs to be kept at a lower temperature.
  • Modelling the overall heating and cooling requirements as well as mapping specific areas in the facility that may be naturally warmer or cooler. This information is used to identify where the best location is for specific equipment. It is important to note that when new equipment is installed in a facility, it will change the mapping of cooler and warmer areas in the facility, hence the requirement for more sophisticated mapping and modelling techniques. These models will also need to take into account seasonal variances in temperature. For example, some facilities may need to be heated in winter and cooled in summer.
  • Purchase and maintenance of air conditioning units with sufficient capacity, and maintaining these units regularly.
  • Investing in backup air-conditioning units that can be used if a main unit fails, or to provide extra cooling capacity on exceptionally hot days (although this should be a rare exception – if the backup unit is used too frequently this implies that initial planning was inadequate).
  • Ongoing monitoring of the temperature and adjustment of cooling settings according to changes in season and equipment layout. These monitors could be linked to the Operations Bridge, which would be able to respond to any significant deviation from normal temperatures.
  • Identifying and avoiding ‘obvious’ errors, such as locating the heat output of a major server close to the intake of an air-conditioning unit; or preventing airflow by stacking manuals in ‘free’ space.

Similar steps should be taken to identify ideal humidity levels and specify whether dehumidifying equipment is required.

Smoke detection equipment is usually installed as part of the overall fire control strategy of the facility and is linked to automated fire-fighting systems. However, Facilities Management should not assume that an automated response to fire threats will be adequate. Smoke detection units should be linked to the Operations Bridge and any exceptions should be investigated.

Movement detection units should be installed in all unattended operating areas. These will ensure that unauthorized access is detected and reported to Facilities Security and possibly also the Operations Bridge. This will help to enforce proper scheduling of maintenance or installation activities.

Dust and particle detection can assist in maintaining air quality around systems that are particularly sensitive. Again, monitors should be routed to the Operations Bridge so that deviations can be investigated and corrected before any significant damage occurs.

There are also a number of other types of facilities monitoring, which are based on the location of the facility. For example, building movement monitors installed in locations with high levels of seismic activity. These act as early warning systems to indicate that a system needs to be shut down or failed over to an alternative site before a significant earth tremor or earthquake affects sensitive equipment. Similar monitors and safeguards are also being installed in facilities where there is high electrical storm activity.

These systems are collectively referred to as Building Management Systems (BMSs), although as these tools are integrated, the term is being used to refer to a single integrated management system, rather than a loose collection of tools performing similar functions. Thought should be given to using monitoring tools that are integrated into, or at least consistent with, existing monitoring tools. (See Chapter 7 for more details on tools.)

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