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Digital Fortress Keeps Cool With RFID

An energy-management solution enables the data center to effectively manage heat loads and assure customers that their servers are protected.
By Michael Belfiore
Aug 17, 2014

The leak had gone undetected. A $60,000 computer room air conditioner (CRAC) unit—which monitors and maintains the temperature, air distribution and humidity at Digital Fortress, a colocation data center in Seattle, Washington—had been quietly losing coolant. "We had a unit that had been leaking… more than 25 pounds of refrigerant over the course of 24 hours," says Scott Gamble, Digital Fortress' IT manager, "but, throughout the event, reported that it was running at 100 percent efficiency."

Unbeknown to technicians, failure was imminent. Keeping facilities cool is a key requirement for any provider of colocation services. The more servers there are—and the harder they work—the more energy they consume. Energy consumption generates heat, which can spell doom for a computer processor. "Ten minutes can be the difference between things being OK and a serious problem," Gamble says.

The energy-management solution allows the data center to manage heat loads and assure that customers' servers remain protected.
Digital Fortress' customers, which range from small businesses to government contractors and major corporations, lease everything from single cabinets to walk-in cages and private suites for their servers. Customers rely on Digital Fortress to provide power and Internet access in an environment secure from tampering and unpredictable swings in temperature and humidity. While a server can be replaced—and the data on it likely restored from a backup—a customer that loses faith in a colocation service may not return.

Digital Fortress averted disaster, thanks to a newly installed RFID solution from RF Code, an environmental- and asset-management company focused on the data center market. "We had just deployed sensors several days beforehand," Gamble says, "and we could see that temperatures were on the rise at a pretty sharp incline." He was able to dispatch engineers to repair the unit before it could harm customers' servers.

Without the new RFID system, Gamble says, "it would have taken far longer to identify the device that was malfunctioning, and it's entirely possible it would have burnt itself out." Because it detected the leak before it could turn into a disaster, he figures, the RF Code deployment paid for itself in a mere six days.

Meeting Customer Demand
In early 2013, Gamble and other Digital Fortress managers decided the company needed to update its monitoring capabilities. Customers had begun asking Digital Fortress to report on conditions within its facilities. The applications running on their servers required increased processing power, and clients wanted to know whether the data center could meet their need for increased energy density without overheating.

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