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Noise from blast of gas destroys Digiplex data depot disk drives

Nordic Nasdaq knocked as deleterious decibels crashed servers

It's a bit rich when a fire prevention system designed to protect a data centre kills its servers, but that's what happened when inert gas was injected into a Nasdaq Digiplex bit barn in Sweden.

The gas release – on 18 April – caused a loud, high-pitched whistle, which resulted in vibrations destroying server disk drives, the servers crashing and the Nasdaq Nordic exchange going offline until 2pm local time. A backup system had to be brought into action by Nasdaq, which rents space at the Digiplex facility in Väsby, near Stockholm, with its own kit installed there.

Nasdaq had to import replacement servers.

The gas release was caused by an "errant fire extinguisher system" in the Nasdaq-rented module. It took some days for the root cause analysis people to find out that disk drives had crashed because of the gas release noise.

It's been known for some years that suppression system gas release sounds can damage disk drives as per an incident in Sydney four years ago. It's thought that differently designed release nozzles can avoid the disk-killing noise.

It is not known which make and type of disk drives were affected.

Digiplex said (PDF) its Väsby centre has fire protection with:

  • Argonite fire suppression system in conditioned modules
  • High-grade early smoke detection apparatus in conditioned modules
  • Monitored automatic smoke detection throughout
  • Nozzles with silencers

Those silenced nozzles didn't appear to work.

Kidde Fire Systems supplies the argonite system (PDF), which uses a combination of nitrogen and argon stored in high-pressure cylinders at 2900 PSI (200 bar), and is said to be "safe for personnel and equipment".

The cylinders have discharge nozzles through which gas flows when a fire or smoke is detected, and is intended to kill a fire within 60 seconds.

Kidde documentation stated: "The brass discharge nozzles are available in four basic sizes, 1/2-inch, 3/4-inch, 1-inch and 1-1/2-inch. Each is fitted with a drilled orifice to assure proper flow rates, agent quality and proper discharge timing as determined by flow calculations."

There was no mention in the documentation of any need to verify that the nozzle noise needs controlling to protect disk drives in the gas release area. ®

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