Safe Access In Data Centres

Modern data centres require vast amounts of cooling to prevent the sensitive computers they contain from breaking down. This is largely because computing power is increasing at a phenomenal rate. 

The world’s first digital computer built in the 1940s could perform three additions or subtractions in a second; today, the fastest computer can complete 360 trillion operations a second and there is a supercomputer in Japan with a theoretical maximum speed of 1,000,000,000,000,000 operations a second.

As the power of computers rockets, so too does the need for more sophisticated equipment to keep them cool. Indeed, the biggest constraint on the growth of computing power in business is not the technology itself; rather, it is the cooling for cutting-edge IT developments like blade servers.

This – and the fact that these mission-critical systems tend to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week – places enormous pressure on close control air conditioning suppliers to offer ever higher cooling capacities and greater efficiencies.

Data centres typically work on a two-year upgrade cycle and each time the equipment changes so do the cooling demands. Data centre cooling solutions must be flexible and adaptable on a scale not faced by any other air conditioning application.

But, more than this, the cooling systems that look after data centres and keep them operating effectively themselves need to be looked after if they are to do their job properly.

After all, one of the main factors to mark out data centre cooling sector from comfort air conditioning is the need for absolute and complete reliability. There is so much mission-critical information stored in a data centre that reliability is crucial. You wouldn’t, for example, want to be in charge of the server at a large banking group if it goes down.

There is a particularly powerful case for preventing equipment failure before it occurs rather than fixing or replacing it after the event. Effective maintenance can make a significant contribution to the bottom line by ensuring that HVAC equipment is energy efficient and therefore produces lower power bills and higher environmental performance.

But there is another, equally important factor related to maintenance – access to equipment in order to service it.

Safe access protects building services engineers installing and maintaining plant. To ensure this, ECEX has a highly experienced team operating from our workshops in Newbury who can survey, design, manufacture, refurbish and install metal fabrications of all descriptions.

We specialise in steel fabrication for access safety including bespoke platforms and railings. We also provide cost effective solutions to eliminating trip hazards on roof and internal plant rooms, including step-overs to pipework, ductwork and other obstructions; platform extensions, and bespoke walkways and access gantries to cooling towers, chillers and air handling units.

One excellent example is the edge protection ECEX provided on the roof of a major data centre in London’s Docklands to prevent personnel who need to access HVAC equipment from falling. The company manufactured and installed fixed access ladders and more than 140 linear metres of tubular, galvanised guard railings on the roof.

The data centre has a large number of roof-mounted, dry air coolers. Some are individual units and others are in large adjoining banks. Maintenance engineers need to climb on top of these units to access fans and their duties.

However, before the installation of the ECEX fixed ladders and guardrails there was no means of accessing the units safely and no edge protection to prevent falls from height. This is one of the most common issues we are asked to resolve. Plant such as dry air coolers have been installed without any edge protection, yet a fall from the top of them would likely result in serious injury.

ECEX surveys, designs, manufactures and installs bespoke and off-the-shelf access safety solutions, including walkways and step-overs, access ladders and platforms, guardrail and edge protection, and stairs as well as mesh security caging and all other fabricated metalwork. For more information, click here.

Download our free guide to access safety solutions, ‘Access All Areas’, here.