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Temperature Monitoring

Temperature Monitoring Feature

July 12, 2010

What Data Center Death Smells Like: A Personal Experience

By Erin Monda, TMCnet Contributor

We have a pretty advanced data center here at TMC (News - Alert) and since I've started working for the company I haven't experienced any issues. When I walk by the room the data center is housed in, I notice the servers are purring away happily, doing what servers do - and I pay them no further attention.
However, when our back-up uninterruptable power supply system (UPS) went awry, we here in the office experienced first hand what it's like to experience certain elements of a failing data center.
Forget all presumptions. For us, personally, the worst part was… the smell.
The malodorous aroma given off by the failing UPS' batteries was truly horrific - it reeked of sulfuric acid in parts of our office. One well-meaning employee sprayed her perfume to cover the stench, but somehow made it worse.
According to TMC correspondent Juliana Kenny, a resident writer (who has been known at times to wax poetic), "It (the smell) penetrated the air with a deep stench of technological death."
Luckily, our IT Manager, Larry Szebeni was quick to rectify the situation and had parts immediately on order. In short time, the smell receded and we were able to go back to being extremely productive employees.

But I took the lesson to heart.
The fact is that when you're working with delicate electronic components - you're going to run into the occasional snafu. We are lucky enough to have the resources to ensure that these snafus never manifest into uglier problems -- but companies without proper monitoring devices in place may not be so lucky.
Because of the considerable assets we have on hand, the data situation never escalated into a crisis -- but I asked Larry what would have happened if our data center had truly failed.
"The servers host the domain, the email, the file sharing - everything would be down. If we lose the power, we lose the internet - which means we lose business." He added, "In a worst case scenario, if our data centers ever failed, our millions of readers, who read TMC every day, may have been denied content."
And we can't have that!
Now, one can't help certain types of equipment failure - in our case, it was simply that the UPS' batteries were out of juice. But other factors, like environmental threats, still pose a danger to data centers. Temperature-related concerns, like overheating or overcooling, are some of the greatest threats.
Here at TMC, our tower servers put out 90,000 BTUs - but because our company is growing, we soon expect to be putting out about 140,000 BTUs - that's a whole lot of heat.
Thankfully, we are prepared for growth. Our company has systems in place to monitor the temperature -- temperature monitoring is just one of the precautions we have in place to ensure smooth system operation.

Erin Monda is a TMCnet Contributing Editor. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Erin Monda