Jun 01, 2023

Are inert gases on the way to becoming the natural choice for data centers?

Are inert gases on the way to becoming the natural choice for data centers?

The OVH’s data center disaster in France in March 2021; the fire due to an electrical fire at one of Google’s data centers in August 2022, or more recently the fire incident in the building of SK Group in South Korea in October 2022; are all sad examples that remind us that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The repercussions of such incidents are not negligible, and we explain why you have everything to gain by investing in an effective fire suppression system.


Why data centers fires must be prevented?

Data centers are indispensable in the digital era. They store and process vital information for businesses and people. However, the increasing complexity of IT infrastructure raises the risk of fire incidents in data centers.

Such incidents can lead to data loss, equipment damage, and operational downtime. Consequently, it is crucial to implement an effective fire suppression system to minimize the impact of fires. Here are 5 good reasons to protect data centers from fire:

  • Data centers are full of inherent fire risks: failing or damaged wires, cables, hardware and HVAC equipment; or combustible raised floors and suspended ceilings;
  • Fire causes massive service disruption or even worse complete loss of data;
  • An average loss of a server downtime is over 7,000$ per minute;
  • Equipment replacement is sometimes unavoidable and generates huge costs;
  • The safety of data centers employees is a fundamental requirement.

The best course of action is to minimize the risk of fire from the start.


Available technologies

The two prevalent fire suppression technologies used in data center protection are inert gas and high-pressure water mist systems. Inert gas systems employ a mixture of gases, such as nitrogen, argon or carbon dioxide, to displace oxygen and extinguish fires. Conversely, high-pressure water mist systems utilize a fine spray of water droplets to put out fires.

A key advantage of inert gas systems is the absence of water-related side effects. Water mist can dampen or wet the surroundings, including servers and electrical equipment, potentially causing short circuits and costly collateral damages. Inert gas systems avoid these water-related side effects, ensuring no damage to equipment as there is no residue to clean up or evaporate.

Additionally, high-pressure water mist systems require electrical equipment to be shut off during discharge to avoid short circuit, inert gas systems do not demand any power shutdowns, ensuring uninterrupted operations. With this, inert gas systems eliminate the need for special IP protection for servers.

Lastly, inert gas systems have low energy consumption, unlike high-pressure water mist systems that require high power to operate water pumps. Inert gas systems demand minimal energy to function, reducing energy footprint. Furthermore, the total cost of ownership for high-pressure water mist systems is higher than that of inert gas systems. The former demands regular maintenance and inspections, leading to increased maintenance costs, while the latter requires minimal upkeep.


Fire suppression with inert gas

When it comes to the room level, gaseous fire suppression systems are an excellent option. They are no threat to equipment in the room and they minimize downtime since no cleaning is required after discharge. Rotarex offers you the perfect solution to protect your data center! The UL, FM & VdS approved INEREX® fire suppression system.

The INEREX® system uses a mixture of argon, nitrogen and carbon dioxide to decrease oxygen levels present in the room which naturally puts out the fire. A whole installation certainly requires more space, but it can be located further away from the protected due to reduced pressure loss when compared to high-pressure water mist systems. For many applications involving sensitive data and equipment, INEREX® by Rotarex Firetec is an adequate choice.

Combined with Rotarex silent nozzles, the INEREX® system protects sensitive drivers and data against sound pressure damage during discharge. Our silent nozzles reduce gas discharge noise below the danger level and provide excellent distribution from the nozzle location: ceiling, floor, or mid-height.


Added layer of protection for racks or data server cabinets

Rotarex Firetec also offers you protection at the rack or data server cabinet level. If you are looking to protect your panels individually, the FireDETEC® system is ideal to complement total flooding systems by being very close to the source of ignition, offering an early detection and suppression of fire, thus limiting damages. The Rotarex FireDETEC® systems use a pneumatic detection tube that reliably detects and actuates the release of the extinguishing agent using pneumatic technology.


Final thoughts

In summary, while high-pressure water mist systems effectively suppress fires, inert gas systems provide several advantages for data center fire protection, including no equipment damage, downtime, lower energy costs, reduced maintenance expenses, and scalability using distribution valves. The INEREX® inert gas systems are the optimal solution for data center fire protection, safeguarding data, people, and property. Thus, data center operators should take into account the benefits of inert gas technology when choosing a fire suppression system.

Do not hesitate to contact us for more information: firetec@rotarex.com.



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