Archive for July, 2012

Battery Technology for Data Centers and Network Rooms: FireSafetyCodes–USA

Posted by on July 31, 2012  |  No Comments

White Paper 31

Understanding fire safety codes as they relate to battery installations in data centers is important for the following reasons:

  • Knowledgeable individuals allow themselves more flexibility when selecting a battery solution. For example, data center professionals who are unfamiliar with the codes may find themselves paying for and installing safety equipment that is not required by law.
  • Knowledge of the code can limit liability should a disaster occur.
  • Fundamental knowledge of the code can help buy peace of mind. Data center professionals encounter enough complexity in their jobs without having to harbor doubts as to whether their battery system installations violate local fire codes.

A code is law–a mandated ordinance, regulation or statutory requirement enforced by a government or its agencies. Codes are enacted in order to protect public health, safety, and welfare. Codes are enforced by the “Authority Having Jurisdiction” (AHJ). This can be an organization, an office, or a single individual responsible for enforcing the requirements of a code or standard, or for approving equipment, material, an installation, or a procedure. In an environment like a data center, jurisdictions for the enforcement of a code sometimes overlap. For example: the building code may apply to seismic construction and floor loading; the fire code may apply to the use of flammable substances; the mechanical code may apply to ventilation and exhaust; and the electrical code may apply to equipment installation and safety.

This paper will look primarily at fire codes in the USA as they are usually the driver during battery system installations for the application of other codes (such as mechanical and electrical codes). Fire codes for stationary lead acid batteries were originally written to address large systems utilizing vented (also called “flooded” or “wet cell”) lead-acid batteries that supported data centers and network rooms. These systems are often located in a separate room away from the servers on the data center floor. These batteries continuously vent hydrogen gas and contain electrolyte in liquid form. Special ventilation and spill containment systems are required when these battery systems are deployed.

Smaller and distributed back-up power systems are typically located much closer to or within the equipment they protect (e.g., they are often located in racks next to servers). They generally use valve-regulated lead-acid (VRLA) batteries. VRLA batteries are designed to recombine hydrogen and oxygen and emit only extremely small amounts of hydrogen under normal operating conditions. Normal room ventilation is usually sufficient to remove any emitted hydrogen, so special ventilation is typically not required (see White Paper 32, Battery Technology for Data Centers and Network Rooms: Environmental Regulations).

The electrolyte in a VRLA battery is not in liquid form but is immobilized. The most common technology in the USA, termed “Absorbed Glass Mat” (AGM), uses a highly porous, non- woven glass mats that immobilize the electrolyte and prevent it from spilling. Another type, more common in Europe and Asia, uses a gelled electrolyte with a consistency similar to that of tar. A crack or hole in the casing of a VRLA battery will not result in a measurable electrolyte spill. Spill containment systems for installations with VRLA batteries are therefore not needed or necessary.

“Battery Technology for Data Centers and Network Rooms: Fire Safety Codes-US” Full White Paper (Click Here To Download)

Executive Summary:

Fire safety regulations and their application to uninterrupted power supply (UPS) battery installations in the USA are reviewed. In some cases, fire codes do not clearly recognize improvements in battery safety resulting from changing battery technology. Valve regulated lead acid (VRLA) batteries are frequently deployed within data centers and network rooms without the need for the elaborate safety systems that are required for vented (flooded) lead acid batteries. Proper interpretation of the fire codes is essential in the design and implementation of data centers and network rooms.

Contents:

  • Code of federal regulations
  • Fire codes
  • Mechanical codes
  • Application of the codes to battery technologies
  • Interpretation

Conclusion:

Flooded batteries require special containment and ventilation due to the risks posed by their liquid electrolyte and their continual hydrogen generation. VRLA batteries have miniscule amounts of liquid electrolyte and generate much lower amounts of hydrogen. The latest codes specifically recognize the technology differences between flooded and VRLA batteries and exempt VRLA batteries from spill containment and occupational separation.

However, older codes might still be in use in many jurisdictions. The older codes were not as clear in making the distinction, and an inspector might take a very narrow interpretation. Since VRLA batteries contain miniscule amounts of liquid electrolyte, most practical installations of VRLA batteries do not trigger the spill containment and occupancy separation requirements. Battery systems based on VRLA batteries can be deployed, and are routinely deployed, within data centers, network rooms and work environments in compliance with fire codes.

White Paper Written By:

Stephen McCluer is a Senior Manager for external codes and standards at Schneider Electric. He has 30 years of experience in the power protection industry, and is a member of NFPA, ICC, IAEI, ASHRAE, The Green Grid, BICSI, and the IEEE Standards Council. He serves on a number of committees within those organizations, is a frequent speaker at industry conferences, and authors technical papers and articles on power quality topics. He served on a task group to rewrite the requirements for information technology equipment in the 2011 National Electrical Code.

Universal Networking Services’s partnership with Universal Power Group, Inc. has enabled us to build a strong distribution network of battery and related power components that meet consumer needs for accessibility, portability, security and mobility, coupled with value added offerings such as battery pack assembly and battery replacement/recycling programs.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding this topic.

Filed Under: Uncategorized

Data Center VRLA Battery End-of-Life Recycling Procedures

Posted by on July 20, 2012  |  No Comments

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Data center professionals rely on lead-acid batteries as a reliable and cost effective energy storage resource. However, some of the basic components of these batteries (e.g., lead, sulfuric acid) are potentially toxic if mishandled. Data center owners risk stiff penalties if these batteries are improperly disposed of. Fortunately, battery manufacturers, vendors, and recyclers recognize that spent lead-acid batteries hold financial value and have greatly facilitated their safe disposal.

“Data Center VRLA Battery End-of-Life Recycling Procedures” Full White Paper (Click Here To Download)

Executive Summary:

Contrary to popular belief, the recycling of lead-acid batteries, which are the most common batteries found in data centers, is one of the most successful recycling systems that the world has ever seen. Reputable battery manufacturers, suppliers, and recycling companies have teamed up to establish a mature and highly efficient lead-acid battery recycling process. This paper reviews battery end-of-life options and describes how a reputable vendor can greatly facilitate the safe disposal and recycling of VRLA lead-acid batteries.

Contents:

  • Enlist a reputable battery disposal partner
  • End-of-life options
  • The role of the UPS supplier
  • The battery recycling process

Conclusion:

The lead-acid battery recycling system is almost an ecological closed loop. Polypropylene is recycled into more battery plastic. The sulfuric acid is collected and resold as commodity acid. The lead is smelted and returned back to batteries or applied to other uses of lead.

The recycling of batteries is highly regulated at the local, state, national, and international levels. Fortunately, data center owners are not required to be familiar with the large volume of regulations involved. By partnering with a reputable UPS supplier or battery manufacturer, most battery owners can safely dispose of their spent batteries free of charge.

White Paper Written By:

Raymond Lizotte is a Senior Environmental Engineer within the APC Environmental Stewardship Office.  He directs the company’s efforts to develop products that conform to emerging product focused rules, such as the European Restrictions on Hazardous Substances in Electronics (RoHS) directive.  He has been involved in environmental product design for the past 20 years.  Ray studied environmental engineering at MIT where he graduated with a BS in 1985.

Universal Networking Services’s partnership with Universal Power Group, Inc. has enabled us to build a strong distribution network of battery and related power components that meet consumer needs for accessibility, portability, security and mobility, coupled with value added offerings such as battery pack assembly and battery replacement/recycling programs.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding this topic.

Don’s Corner: “Ferrari vs. Datapod”

Posted by on July 11, 2012  |  No Comments

Don Melchert, Critical Facility Specialist

While looking up alternate spark plugs for my old Ducati, I noticed that the ones I use were compatible with Ferrari. After my initial thought of, “Wow, that’s pretty cool!” my very next thought was, “I wonder what kind of data center they’re using to create such awesome, jaw-dropping, daydream inspiring machines?”

I’m back, sorry, I had to take a moment there for a quick run in my imaginary yellow Diablo and it’s so hard to park it and turn it off without revving the engine a few times.

Seriously though, everyone’s had that moment when you realize that, regardless of the item, it’s reached the end of its useful life and either needs a major overhaul or a replacement. For Ferrari, the decision to scrap and rebuild happens many times a year, as they build a completely new Formula One car from concept to racetrack in days. Back to point, here’s what I was able to find out about their “new-ish” data center, and it’s the disappointment I now have that’s fought it’s way out into becoming the topic of Don’s Corner this week.

“Ferrari is reserved about divulging technical details about the center, but it is of medium size — approximately 2,500 square feet in area, and loaded with about 60 racks of IBM, Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard servers and tiered storage arrays. The power conversion (AC to DC) equipment consists of APC Symmetra PX 250-500 power supplies, Modular 3P PDUs, and InRow coolers. Both air and liquid cooling systems are utilized; the room itself was kept at about 23 degrees C. (about 72 degrees F.)” –eWeek.com, March 2009.

All that’s great, but I’m a CFS, I needed to see it! So, like any other intelligent human, I found myself scouring YouTube, where I found two videos from our good friends at APC. If you’re like me, you’ll want to see them too, so the videos are attached here. Go ahead, watch them back to back, at worst you’ll lose a few minutes of your time, but at a minimum, you’ll be able to have another conversation starter, right? Come back and I’ll tell you why I am so disappointed in the F1 Champ’s decision.

About half way through the first video, somewhere between the scene where there are three different trades trying to operate in the same room (before the raised floor was completed) and the scene where Mr. Calabrese is speaking in front of their new equipment, a single question jumped into mind, “Why, on earth, didn’t they simply use a Datapod?” I’m sure that if we asked Ferrari, they’d have many reasons why they didn’t, but I’ve got two reasons why they should have, and from what I’ve seen, it’s Time and Money that run the world.

Design-
Once you’ve mustered the courage to innovate, which for many companies is the hardest part, you’re now faced with the decision to retrofit an existing space, build a completely new facility or simply use a Datapod. If you’ve been through it before, a retrofit or new build can take a year (or longer, in America, it’s more like 18 months) to accomplish, with most of that time spent in the design and approvals phase. With a Datapod, everything’s modular in design, the key to its efficient deployment. Once Ferrari determined their power and cooling requirements, Datapod could have provided them a solution in days rather than weeks.

Ok, that covers the Time argument, but what about the all-important Euro? Other than minimizing the costs associated with paying inspectors and engineering firms to design a new building layout, can you imagine the number of man-hours that could have been saved using a pre-engineered Datapod solution?

Deployment-
Ferrari decided to put their data center in a historical building on campus, which makes sense, as it probably wasn’t being utilized. However, doing so required a massive retrofit before the aged building was suitable enough to house a high-density data center. Unless Ferrari already had tradesmen on staff, imagine how long it took to solicit, receive and evaluate competitive bids for the interior, let alone the new electrical service. With that on your mind, consider that a Datapod can be dropped on a relatively unimproved gravel lot. It’s that simple. Once the Utility Pod has been placed, the trucks show up, the containers roll off and are locked into place. Put another way, the Datapod solution reduces or outright eliminates invoices from all the service industry experts traditionally required when finding a home for your new network. That’s a lot of funds that could be used in R&D, ultimately used to win races this season, rather than waiting for a 20 year ROI.

Other than final testing, the power and cooling modules have already been pre-commissioned and are ready for use. What’s that, you don’t trust pre-commissioned items? That can’t be entirely true, as we have no problem plugging in a new refrigerator that has been assembled and pre-commissioned by the manufacturer. If we are willing to accept such things for our home, why not in the data center world? Is it because of the 24/7/365 requirements of today’s critical networks? Ok, I can understand that, but really, if this is the case, how many of us own a refrigerator in our kitchen that’s deployed N+1? Ask any one of the ravenous teenagers in my home and they’ll tell you, food is a serious requirement and the loss of a refrigerator would cause an immediate service disruption of outdoor chores!

Don’t get me wrong! Kudos should be given to Ferrari for, as I heard in the video, having “the courage to innovate.” The IT managers at Ferrari wanted to do bigger and better things and must have realized that you simply can not achieve new results by repeating the same mistakes, even if you do it in a new building. However, they could have saved Time and Money by going the containerized route, rather than brick and mortar. As with any other topic posted on Don’s Corner, I challenge you to look at the information objectively and you be the judge.

Just don’t let racing a Ferrari scare you, there are faster things out there. This time, it was a Datapod.

Learn more by clicking on this link to What Is Datapod?” Series Part I

Don Melchert

Battery Technology for Data Centers and Network Rooms: Ventilation

Posted by on July 9, 2012  |  1 Comment

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The main objectives of any ventilation system are management of environmental air temperature, humidity and air quality. In a data center, or any facility in which electrical equipment and battery systems are installed, the ventilation system must address:

  • Health safety – the air must be free of pollutants that could be toxic, corrosive,poisonous, or carcinogenic
  • Fire safety – the system must prevent and safely remove the accumulation of gasses or aerosols that could be flammable or explosive.
  • Equipment reliability and safety – the system must provide an environment that optimizes the performance of equipment (including both batteries and electronic equipment) and maximizes their life expectancy
  • Human comfort

“Battery Technology for Data Centers and Network Rooms: Ventilation” Full White Paper (Click Here To Download)

Stationary lead-acid batteries are the most widely used method of energy reserve for information technology rooms (data centers, network rooms). Selecting and sizing ventilation for battery systems must balance and trade off many variables. These could include different battery technologies, installation methods, operating modes, and failure modes.

Executive Summary:

Lead-acid batteries are the most widely used method of energy reserve. Ventilation systems must address health and safety as well as performance of the battery and other equipment in a room. Valve regulated lead acid (VRLA) batteries and modular battery cartridges (MBC) do not require special battery rooms and are suitable for use in an office environment. Air changes designed for human occupancy normally exceed the requirements for VRLA and MBC ventilation. Vented (flooded) batteries, which release hydrogen gas continuously, require a dedicated battery room with ventilation separate from the rest of the building. This paper summarizes some of the factors and codes to consider when selecting and sizing a ventilation system for a facility in which stationary batteries are installed.

Contents:

  • Terminology
  • Environmental design considerations

Conclusion:

Ventilation systems for stationary batteries must address human health and safety, fire safety, equipment reliability/ safety, and human comfort. Vented (flooded) batteries should be installed in dedicated battery rooms, but may share the same room as the equipment they support (such as a UPS system). VRLA batteries and modular battery cartridges can be used in an office environment. The amount of heat generated by a battery system is insignificant compared to the total IT system. However, batteries need cool, clean air for optimum performance and long life. Vented batteries must have a dedicated ventilation system that exhausts to the outside and prevents circulation of air in other parts of the building. For VRLA and MBC systems, the ventilation required for human occupancy is normally sufficient to remove heat and gases that might be generated. A minimum of two room air changes per hour and a temperature in the range of 20 – 24° C (68 – 75° F) are recommended. The ventilation system must prevent the accumulation of hydrogen pockets in greater than 1 – 2% concentration.

For vented batteries, it is recommended to enlist the services of an engineering firm experienced in battery room design, including ventilation, fire protection, hazardous material reporting and disposal, and spill control.

For VLRA and MBC battery systems, the ventilation requirements for human occupancy and electronic equipment operation in a data center or network room well exceed the requirements for the batteries. No additional engineering should be necessary for VRLA battery ventilation.

White Paper Written By:

Stephen McCluer is a Senior Manager for external codes and standards at Schneider Electric. He has 30 years of experience in the power protection industry, and is a member of NFPA, ICC, IAEI, ASHRAE, The Green Grid, BICSI, and the IEEE Standards Council. He serves on a number of committees within those organizations, is a frequent speaker at industry conferences, and authors technical papers and articles on power quality topics. He served on a task group to rewrite the requirements for information technology equipment in the 2011 National Electrical Code.

Universal Networking Services’s partnership with Universal Power Group, Inc. has enabled us to build a strong distribution network of battery and related power components that meet consumer needs for accessibility, portability, security and mobility, coupled with value added offerings such as battery pack assembly and battery replacement/recycling programs.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding this topic.