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Limiting vibrations in data center design

Building a new data center? If so, check out Structural and Vibration Guidelines for Datacom Equipment Centers, which details considerations and factors for data center design when it comes to shock and vibrations.

The book was published by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers Inc.(ASHRAE) , which has emerged as a leader in data center design. The group's technical committee 9.9 focuses on data centers and, with its nearly 300 members, is the largest of ASHRAE's approximately 110 technical committees. With this publication, the group has now published six books on data center design and operation.

Recently, we caught up with the book's author and chairman of ASHRAE technical committee 9.9, Roger Schmidt, who explored some of the text's finer points,

What kinds of shocks and vibrations does this book address, and how can they damage IT equipment?

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Things that can vibrate or impact equipment could be transportation systems, railroads, earthquakes, equipment that's running on the floor such as air conditioners, and rolling heavy equipment on the floor. They could all shake IT equipment.

A lot of connections in IT equipment can be vibrated loose. Then you have an open system. Hard drives in a lot of systems can be affected by vibration. Anything mechanic that can move because of shock and vibration could affect electronic and datacom equipment.

Don't current building and fire codes handle all of this already?
There is some unique stuff around data centers. A lot of the time, the code is a minimum requirement that's looking at the building structure. This book would be over and above that -- what you specifically need to do for data centers and shock and vibe. Design practices wouldn't cover all the data center aspects that we require, that's the key thing to say.

A lot of connections in IT equipment can be vibrated loose. Then you have an open system.
Roger Schmidt,
chairmanASHRAE's technical committee 9.9
Are big pieces of facility equipment like chiller plants and generators affected by shocks and vibrations?
It depends where you put that infrastructure. A lot of companies put their chiller plant on the ground-level floor so you can easily get to it and [service it]. With these big rotating machines pumping and returning refrigerant, you don't want to transmit those vibrations. You have to make sure that you don't have those vibrations transferred through the floor and the beams and the walls.

Does the book describe how to design all of that?
You can't get into all the nitty-gritty detail because it's unique to each design. It does lay out various sources and techniques to minimize the transmission of these vibration sources and what you have to look at, such as the stanchions for the raised floor. For the specific design you need to get an architectural and engineering firm to lay down the specifics, but all the best practices are laid out in the book. So how is the book structured?
There are four major parts of the book. We have a best-practices section, we have a building structure section, a building infrastructure section, and then a datacom equipment section. There are a total of 13 chapters, and the book has five appendices that go into some detail about materials, certain calculations and measurements. Is data center facility design becoming so complex that it's difficult for anyone but the largest companies to do it properly?
Yes and no. There are companies out there that specialize in data center design and are very focused on designing and building data centers for high-end systems. But there is definitely more engineering involved in data centers than there was five years ago.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Mark Fontecchio, News Writer. You can also check out our Server Specs blog.

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