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Data Centers Breathe Easier With Less Oxygen

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the waiting-for-the-first-casualty-from-a-locked-closet dept.

392

PC World is reporting that some companies are looking at a new method of fire protection in their server closets, oxygen-deprivation systems.""Wood stops burning when the oxygen content falls to 17 percent and plastic cables between 16 to 17 percent, said Frank Eickhorn, product manager for fire detection at Wagner Alarm and Security Systems GmbH in Hanover, Germany. Wagner makes electric compressors that use a special membrane to remove some of the oxygen from the outside air, a system the company calls OxyReduct. The excess oxygen is exhausted, and the remaining nitrogen-rich air is pumped inside the data center."

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That's pretty hot (4, Funny)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406269)

...er, so to speak. But it can't hold a candle to the burning excitement of watching pasty-faced geeks burn out, run out of steam, and pass out in a low-oxygen environment.

IT workers first day (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18406355)

Just imagine the new employee first day:
- Here is your cube
- Here is your chair
- Here is your scuba gear ...

Re:IT workers first day (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18406475)

Just imagine the new employee first day: - Here is your cube - Here is your chair - Here is your scuba gear ...


Yea,
So inaddition to a firewall theres a partial-pressureswall!!!

Re:IT workers first day (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18406511)

Make that an SCBA (like a firefighter wears), the 'U' in Scuba stands for underwater. ;)

Boss in a Gingham dress (5, Funny)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406623)

Just imagine the new employee first day
I can see this whole process being abused by somewhat amoral bosses:-

Boss (on telephone to sysadmin in data centre): "I'm sorry Dave, but your recent conduct just hasn't been acceptable. I've decided to invoke the disciplinary procedure, and having discussed this with Mr. Flibble we've decided that this warrants 2 hours of W.O.O."
Sysadmin: "What's W.O.O.?"
Boss: "With ... out ... oxygen. No oxygen for 2 hours. That'll teach you to be a git."

Re:IT workers first day (1)

Trillan (597339) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406715)

No, the first day would be devoted into a hazing ritual: mainly, making him pass out in the low oxygen room just for laughs.

Not limited to low-oxygen... (4, Funny)

sczimme (603413) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406565)


But it can't hold a candle to the burning excitement of watching pasty-faced geeks burn out, run out of steam, and pass out in a low-oxygen environment.

Watch an out-o'-shape pasty-tubby try to ride a bicycle some time: with all his belabored breathing, one would think he was climbing Everest instead of pedaling on level ground.

I, of course, am in perfect shape, with nary an ounce of extraneous tissue to be seen...

*looks around furtively*
*runs away*
*collapses after 30 yards*

Re:Not limited to low-oxygen... (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406609)

Well, I admit I resemble the fatass remark myself, although not to TOO horrible a degree since I'm fuckentall. But I also have asthma which makes it difficult to exercise. I can usually hike, so long as I don't want to do any talking at the same time (I'm too busy wheezing.) I mostly just need to get a good set of free weights, because that's easier to start and stop and isn't quite so aerobic. And go back on the Atkins diet, which I'm doing after my birthday at the end of the month.

Re:Not limited to low-oxygen... (1)

sczimme (603413) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406807)


No worries! I probably would collapse after 30 yards. :-) I ruptured my Achilles tendon *mumble* years ago and have been on a rigorous schedule of sitting ever since. Come springtime I'll be the wobbling wide-load on the bicycle!

Re:That's pretty hot (1)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406699)

That happened in Alcan Fabrications (banbury) in the late 1970's.

They had a fancy nitrogen based system to put out fires, and it was tripped by accident, almost doing for a few of their technical bods.

But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18406273)

How could you work in a datacenter with no oxygen

Re:But... (2, Funny)

Doddman (953998) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406345)

Space suits would be an immediate answer

Re:But... (1)

qbwiz (87077) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406461)

Yes, those could be very useful when HAL goes on a rampage and you need to turn him off.

Re:But... (1)

mustafap (452510) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406349)

Scuba gear of course.

Just make sure your buddy system works. It will be great fun communicating with hand signals.

I wonder if I would be allowed to wear flippers and my spear gun?

Re:But... (3, Funny)

slashbob22 (918040) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406531)

I wonder if I would be allowed to wear flippers and my spear gun?
I suppose thats in case the Barracuda firewall dives on you?

Re:But... (4, Informative)

j1m+5n0w (749199) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406405)

How could you work in a datacenter with no oxygen[?]
From the article:

At 15 percent oxygen, it's safe for humans to enter. The lower oxygen content of the air is similar to being at an altitude of about 6,000 feet, Eickhorn said. He demonstrated with a lighter inside a sealed atrium Wagner has on display at Cebit. It won't light.

Re:But... (1)

ettlz (639203) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406521)

At 15 percent oxygen, it's safe for humans to enter. The lower oxygen content of the air is similar to being at an altitude of about 6,000 feet, Eickhorn said. He demonstrated with a lighter inside a sealed atrium Wagner has on display at Cebit. It won't light.
As I understand it, don't we exhale about 14% oxygen? (Is this how mouth-to-mouth is supposed to work, or does said technique depend on unabsorbed gas being in the lungs shortly after inhalation?)

Re:But... (4, Informative)

jtev (133871) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406727)

No, we exhale about 19% oxygen normaly. The bigger problem with rebreathing your own air is the buildup of CO2. That's why the astronauts on Apollo 13 were more worried about their scrubbers than their oxygen supply.

Re:But... (2, Informative)

fredrated (639554) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406567)

Been to 6000 feet and cooked many meals there on a camp stove. At 11,000 feet as well. Fire burns at that altitude just fine.

Re:But... (2, Informative)

jandrese (485) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406641)

That's because your fuel doesn't need higher concentrations of oxygen to ignite. With other materials that is not necessarily the case.

Still, I've been out of breath plenty in datacenters after pulling long lengths of (heavy) SCSI cables. I can't imagine trying to do that in an O2 Poor environment.

Re:But... (4, Insightful)

pavon (30274) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406841)

That's because your fuel doesn't need higher concentrations of oxygen to ignite. With other materials that is not necessarily the case.
That is definately not the correct explaination, as wood and plastic cables burn just fine at 6000 feet. I grew up at 7000+ feet, and had just as much fun with magnifying glass as any other kid.

AFAIK, the percentage of oxygen is no different at altitude than at sea level, it is just the pressure of atmosphere is lower. So if I had to wager a guess, I would say that combustion is dependant on concentration of O2 per mass, and respiration is dependant on concentration of O2 per volume, which is why a smaller percentage of O2 has a greater effect on combustion then on respiration.

Add Lighter Fluid (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406685)

People cook out up in Estes Park at 9-13K all the time. Maybe dude needs to refill his lighter...

Re:Add Lighter Fluid (2, Informative)

cmowire (254489) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406789)

Partial pressure of oxygen determines combustability.

Amount of oxygen determines breathability.... which is how you can breathe astonishingly low pressures of pure oxygen in a space capsule.... till it catches on fire and makes a tasty dish of seared astronaut....

Re:But... (1)

segfaultcoredump (226031) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406767)

Ok, I live at 6,500 ft. Last time I checked, we still had fire stations because things still burned.

Even at the higher elivations (14,000) things still burn.

Optimal (2, Interesting)

phorm (591458) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406803)

This might be safe for humans, but is it optimal for normal functioning. With a lower oxygen content, won't your lungs need to labor more to recover oxygen, and/or wouldn't your work ability be impaired somewhat (sleepiness etc) but the oxygen-poor air? This would be especially true if physical labour was required, for example lifting heavy servers on/off racks.

Re:But... (1)

Trailwalker (648636) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406857)

Lighters work very nicely at 6000 feet. Go to the summit of Mt. Washington or Mount Mitchell, and you will see smokers lighting up with a variety of lighters. Westerners with higher mountains will also notice lighters work at altitudes much higher than six thousand feet.

Re:But... (5, Funny)

Reverend528 (585549) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406459)

How could you work in a datacenter with no oxygen

SSH?

Re:But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18406663)

I've spent many a night in various data-centers repairing/replacing servers that just won't restart on a reboot. Unless you have a robot in the data-center with replacement parts for for your servers, SSH ain't gonna get you very far with hardware problems.

Re:But... (1)

allthingscode (642676) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406827)

Now we can ask for that remote control (VR?) robot to do this work for us. There's always a solution that requires more hardware.

Frist (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18406275)

frist post

Does the BOFH know about this? (4, Funny)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406281)

Hehe, I can just picture Simon locking someone in one of these and slowly dialing down the oxygen until he gets that raise or perk or whatever he's after.

"Hostage" (3, Funny)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406535)

"Shut up. We must conserve the air for as long as possible."
"How long have we got?"
"Minutes."
"How many?"
"I'll let you know."

Great.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18406309)

....pass me that bottle of O2. I have to go bounce the server.

This would only be cool if it were possible to install some elaborate airlock system that made cool whooshing noises upon opening.

www.themobscene.com

Mechanical Halon? (1)

Jherek Carnelian (831679) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406313)

Isn't this how halon systems work? It binds with the oxygen to make some other chemical and thus reduces the amount available for combustion?

Re:Mechanical Halon? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18406385)

It doesn't bind to the oxygen so much as just displace it. Halon is heavier than oxygen and just pushes it out of the area. Halon is dangerous though because if there are people in the room when it goes off they won't be able to breath.

This whole idea doesn't seem that great. So what if something shorts out and sits there glowing red and no one notices? You sure as hell notice when something starts burning but something could be slowing frying multiple components before anyone notices because there would be no signs.

It would still smoulder and smoke (4, Insightful)

nietsch (112711) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406515)

The lower oxigen content just means that fires will not selfsustain. But if you have an external source for energy input, like the short you mentioned, thngs will still get hot and start to smoke. The chances are just a bit better that it does not cause a full-on fire.
You are not supposed to be working all the time in the serverroom anyway, it's much too noisy in there and your 200Watt of heat production would be much better used to warm your office.
In other words: you would have noticed that fire too late anyway if you had to rely on the amount of smoke coming from it.

Re:It would still smoulder and smoke (2, Interesting)

falcon5768 (629591) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406863)

HAHAHAHAHAHAH I wish I could quote this and give it to my boss....

Not only do I work in the server room... we have CUBICLES in the server room with the network admins office RIGHT NEXT TO THE STACK. Needless to say, I cant hear the secretaries phone ring anymore.

Re:Mechanical Halon? (1)

ElectricRook (264648) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406821)

It's not that they won't be able to breath, they'll breath just fine, except that the oxygen in their air has been displaced by HALON, meaning their air has not enough oxygen to sustain human life. Which is all well and fine because USAF flight crew tell us that losing consciousness due to lack of oxygen is very comfortable. If the HALON gas flows across something very hot (glowing metal perhaps). Then the HALON decays into some nasty chemicals akin to mustard gas. Oop's best to get out and stay out. There are people with SCBA that get paid to handle these situations, and it ain't me.

Re:Mechanical Halon? (1)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406431)

Yeah but Humans need oxygen too you know.

Halon systems eliminate basically all oxygen.
These systems just reduce the amount of oxygen for the same effect.

Re:Mechanical Halon? (1)

russ1337 (938915) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406625)

>>> Yeah but Humans need oxygen too you know.

Of course you're working off the assumption the people in IT are human....

That's absolutely incorrect (1)

JayBat (617968) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406761)

Max halon after a discharge is a few percent. I've walked around in a computer room during and after a halon discharge when a test went bad (expensive for the contractor that screwed up the test).

Halon works by actually disrupting the combustion reaction. [h3r.com]

Re:Mechanical Halon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18406443)

Yes, but you don't want to be in a room when a Halon system goes off - exit immediately or die of oxygen starvation. This is to be running all the time so it prevents fire rather than waiting til there is one and putting it out. The levels are kept high enough for humans to function.

Re:Mechanical Halon? (1)

Jherek Carnelian (831679) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406555)

Yes, but you don't want to be in a room when a Halon system goes off - exit immediately or die of oxygen starvation.

I am pretty sure that is incorrect.

I worked with a fire-suppression engineer who claimed to have personally experienced hundreds of halon discharges with little ill effect (he did seem like he might have had too much of the wacky-weed though). According to him, under normal deployment conditions, a halon system will not remove ALL oxygen, just enough to suppress most fires.

Re:Mechanical Halon? (1)

cmowire (254489) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406839)

IIRC, halon works not by displacing air, but by disrupting the combustion process mid-way so as to prevent it from maintaining combustion temperture.

Re:Mechanical Halon? (2, Interesting)

beadfulthings (975812) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406893)

I think he may have been on the whacky-weed. The drill was always the same--everybody out, last one out the door hits the big red button for the Halon. It was just by the door and was protected under a plastic shield so you couldn't just bump into it by accident. Of course those were data centers constructed as the Earth was still cooling and before the dinosaurs became extinct. We were also entrusted with (or encumbered by) massive tape reels--one per drone--and expected to keep them safe until everybody could assemble and regroup. Just grand carrying one of those down five flights of steps from a computer room that was unaccountably located on the top floor of a building.

Re:Mechanical Halon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18406453)

Halon systems are banned, thanks to the Montreal Protocol.

Re:Mechanical Halon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18406587)

i think only *new* halon systems are banned, cus the last place i worked they sure as hell had a halon system...

Re:Mechanical Halon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18406635)

I once deployed software in a data center that used a Halon type system, the mechanism was only 'armed' when the door was locked. Once or twice I would come out and lock the door forgetting someone was working the other end of the room.

I once had the idea of a starting a new fad fitness programme entitled, "The 'hearing the door loock, arming the halon system, and running like fuck to the door for fear of being locked all night in a room that could spontaneously become void of oxygen' system" :o).

The nice thing about the data center was that only techies dared go there, seems the techies like to over stress the danger of the Halon system. More than one of the non-technical staff seemed to treat the data center as 'the room that could kill you INSTANTLY!!!'.

Safe to work (2, Interesting)

stanmann (602645) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406315)

Yes, its safe to enter, but how long, 1 hour, 3 hours 6 hours 8 hours. The article doesn't mention.

Re:Safe to work (4, Informative)

scheme (19778) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406407)

Yes, its safe to enter, but how long, 1 hour, 3 hours 6 hours 8 hours. The article doesn't mention.

RTFA, the oxygen content in the air would be the same as living at around 2000-3000m which people certainly do without ill effects.

Re:Safe to work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18406655)

Without ill effects and without fire too... wait a minute!

Re:Safe to work (5, Funny)

ad0gg (594412) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406745)

Not only can it prevent fires but it also help systems administrators train for the olympics.

Re:Safe to work (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18406435)

TFA said the oxygen level was equivalent to an altitude of 6000 feet, so i guess not that dangerous.

Re:Safe to work (1)

fredrated (639554) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406497)

Except fire burns at 6000 feet, been there many times and cooked dinner with no problem.

Re:Safe to work (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18406455)

Well, it does say that it's like being at an elevation of 6000 ft, which is a perfectly habitable environment indefinitely. Takes some adjustment, but basically harmless.

But, that must be making some assumption about the actual elevation of the datacenter. If the datacenter really is at 6000 ft. (it would be close to that, for example, in Denver, CO), then what is the effect of the reduced O2 concentration? At what point do you have to pressurize your datacenter to make the reduced O2 concentration safe?

Re:Safe to work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18406723)

If the datacenter really is at 6000 ft. (it would be close to that, for example, in Denver, CO), then what is the effect of the reduced O2 concentration?

Surely it's the partial pressure of O2 that is important, and not really the concentration. If they're really telling the truth about this, then wood and plastic cabling don't burn in Denver... which I kinda doubt.

Perfectly safe. (2, Funny)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406537)

Just your memory doesn't function as well, so you better make all the passwords really simple.

The benefits of CO2 (2, Funny)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406323)

TFA is way too complex. There are much simpler ways to handle the problem. The oxygen levels in many major cities are below 18% already. Just let CO2 levels keep going up, this will push oxygen percentages down a tad more, and we have no more computer fires.

Re:The benefits of CO2 (1)

QuickFox (311231) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406883)

Troll? It's a joke for chrissakes! Sheesh!

Not that it's funny, but come on moderators, lame or not, it's still a joke! Lighten up!

Great idea! (1)

c0l0 (826165) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406331)

This should also help keep cleaning personnel out of the inner sanctums of the datacenter [images-amazon.com] , and therefore prevent downtimes due to accidentally plugged-out cables and stuff. And even in case it fails to keep them _out_, it might keep them _inside_ for a loooong time. Relativley well-preserved.

I'm such a morbid bastard at times :/

cheaper alternative? (1)

brianben (965786) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406333)

Geeks come pre-loaded with an oxygen-removal membrane in their lungs... are they cheaper than special pumps?

Oh great! (3, Funny)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406351)

Now mountain climbing, hang gliding, and other low oxygen sports will be important on my resume!!

Re:Oh great! (1)

hawg2k (628081) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406465)

Now we'll have to give hazzard pay to our hands-on teams. :)

Re:Oh great! (1)

Idbar (1034346) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406725)

With this and water cooled systems, I think synchronized swimmers will take over ALL IT jobs! It has to be a nice show to watch though!.

Wow, what's old is new... this is WWII tech (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18406367)

The German company Wagner first used this process to asphyxiate jews en masse during WWII.

It's good to see they finally found another beneficial use for the technology.

Paging Mr. Travaglia! (1)

peacefinder (469349) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406391)

I just know that The BOFH [theregister.co.uk] is going to be getting one of these systems installed soon. Only his system will occasionally reduce the oxygen levels much further than is strictly necessary for fire protection.

Datacenter / ski resort (1)

no_pets (881013) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406423)

Sorry, not really datacenter related but it's brought up in TFA. So, at 6000 ft oxygen is much lower similar to this new system. So, there are no fires at that height? Is this true? How about off-site datacenters in the mountains (by the ski slopes)?

Re:Datacenter / ski resort (1)

JDevers (83155) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406467)

And ample cooling to boot.

Re:Datacenter / ski resort (1)

justasecond (789358) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406527)

So, there are no fires at that height?

It's certainly not true! I cook tasty lunches on my trusty Coleman camp stove at 11,000 ft. base elevations and the lodge grills work just fine at close to the 13,000 ft. summit elevation of this ski area [wikipedia.org] .

It's a pain-in-the-ass to cook tea, though, 'cause water boils at a pretty tepid temperature at that elevation.

Re:Datacenter / ski resort (5, Informative)

Drawkcab (550036) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406533)

Its not exactly the same as being at 6000ft, its just similar from the perspective of how easily a human can breath. Higher altitudes have the same percentage of oxygen in the air, they just have lower air pressure, meaning less of all of its components. The lower altitude air will still be higher pressure, but with less oxygen. In terms of breathing, we just care about the partial pressure of oxygen, but thats not all that matters when it comes to whether something will burn.

Re:Datacenter / ski resort (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18406889)

I knew when reading the article that somebody would say "Why are there still fires above 6000 ft???"

As pointed out, the percentage of Ox at 6000 is the same as at sea level, and the percentage matters for burning. Luckily our lungs can pull in enough Ox at both 6000 feet or 15% at sea level to keep us going.

Re:Datacenter / ski resort (1)

Jedi Alec (258881) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406543)

someone at google is reading this and going "ooooooh, me likey".

De"bugger" (1)

cyberbob2351 (1075435) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406427)

This will help to ensure that there are never any bugs [wikipedia.org] resident in the systems.

Why not lock the machines in a vacuum chamber and watercool? Or even full liquid immersion for that matter.

Re:De"bugger" (2, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406721)

Why not lock the machines in a vacuum chamber and watercool? Or even full liquid immersion for that matter.

We don't do immersion because it doesn't work over the long term. In the short term, it's fine. Even in a closed system, though, degradation of components leads to the contamination of the coolant, which then must be cleaned.

Cleaning is itself a problem. All filters wear out, and no filters are perfect. The closest things you get are distillation, or reverse osmosis filtering. Distillation requires heat, and to clean that much water, too much heat will be needed. Reverse osmosis filters waste water, so the system won't be closed. In short, full immersion cooling is just a bitch.

Liquid cooling is fairly reasonable, but it has its own problems as well. If you have a centralized pump and centralized cooling for the coolant, then a leak anywhere is a leak in the entire system. If you don't, then you have a jillion pumps and radiators and all kinds of other crap to fail.

So liquid cooling is to be avoided in general, and full-immersion cooling simply isn't feasible.

Breaking news: (3, Funny)

solevita (967690) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406429)

Fire needs oxygen. More on this one as it comes in.

Things they dont advertise (1)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406451)


Not only does it stop fires, but it gets rid of your stupid employees!

Borg (1)

Gettinglucky (655935) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406469)

Sounds like someone is setting up a perfect environment for the borg!

Stopping fires with a 50 litre hydrogen tank??? (1)

Wellerite (935166) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406489)

N2telligence showed a fuel cell at Cebit that uses two, 50-liter tanks of hydrogen for fuel.

Hmmmm - I'd rather take the risk of 21% oxygen than having hydrogen tanks sitting there in the server room....

Time for carbon monooxide detectors (4, Informative)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406495)

Although I'm sure this is safe for day-to-day operations (for low-altitude data centers) and will prevent a self-sustaining blaze, I'd bet that a smoldering powersupply would convert an unpleasant fraction of the low-oxygen atmosphere into carbon monoxide. Oxygen-staved combustion tends to produce this deadly gas (which kills by binding to hemoglobin better than does oxygen)

This is news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18406517)

There are already several systems on the market that do this. Some that have been around for decades, infact. Inergen is one of them. Shit, wikipedia even has an entry about it - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inergen [wikipedia.org]

The Ideal data center would be filled with Helium. (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406529)

If you didn't care about cost and or keeping people alive in the data center Helium would be the ideal inert gas.
No fires to worry about and it is a great conductor of heat.

Heh (1)

nnn0 (794348) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406561)

First; how is this news? Using halon or CO2 or whatever to put out fire has been done for ages.
Second; what happens when the low oxygen level are keeping a fire from igniting and someone opens the door?
Third; how much would a brain damaged BOFH cost you?

Re:Heh (2, Funny)

ray-auch (454705) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406735)

> Third; how much would a brain damaged BOFH cost you?

Dunno, are you assuming a brain damaged beyond the capability to enact revenge (which is pretty low-level wiring in the BOFH brain), or not ?

Re:Heh (1)

nnn0 (794348) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406847)

I just mean pretty fucked up, intentional or not. And I guess it will get worse over time.

Poisonous exhaust (3, Insightful)

youthoftoday (975074) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406569)

We had a similar issue when with the proliferation of large power-stations: water was pumped into cooling towers and then dumped in rivers. The cooling process de-oxygenated the water and this obviously meant the 'poisoning' of rivers (fish unable to breathe etc). We have a similar situation here. Only this time, the facility actually holds on to the oxygen. Why not mix it with the exhaust air (I'm sure it's not completely recirculated?) and avoid the potential for a similar situation. I know TFA says it's beathable, but it's worth considering the option nonetheless. Not all animals are humans. Remember what scale datacentres operate on, and which direection they're going in (they're not getting smaller). Has the potential not to be a significant issue...

two points (1)

jeffeb3 (1036434) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406571)

1) I wonder what effect that will have long term on the components. Specifically, will it reduce the oxidation on the metallic parts? Hmmm...

2) What about having to wait twenty minutes or something to get the oxygen levels high enough for the techs to fix a major crash. I guess the idea might be that the computers take care of their own major disasters.

Re:two points (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18406755)

Yes -- telcos pressurize their physical plant with nitrogen to reduce corrosion.

What fun (4, Funny)

Experiment 626 (698257) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406577)

Not only are server rooms windowless, freakishly cold, and with uncomfortable chairs, but now they asphyxiate you too.

Yay! (1)

Machina Fortuno (963320) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406601)

Alright, at 15% oxygen it is comparable to 6,000 ft. above sea level. Safe? Yes! If you have ever been skiing/hiking/anything active in higher altitudes (I know this might be asking a lot of some Slashdotters) you know that it is quite safe. You just have to pace yourself. So... think of working in one of these server rooms like Denver maybe. That said, it would make a good excuse for Scuba Gear Tuesdays.

This way the IT guys get there own personal Oxygen Bar to put the "exhausted" oxygen to good use!

Re:Yay! (1)

fredrated (639554) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406681)

Yep been there, cooked plenty of food on campfires there also, so anyone that thinks fire doesn't burn at 6000 feet is plenty confused.

Maybe I am stupid but . . . (0, Redundant)

vecctor (935163) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406603)

From TFA:

At 15 percent oxygen, it's safe for humans to enter. The lower oxygen content of the air is similar to being at an altitude of about 6,000 feet, Eickhorn said. He demonstrated with a lighter inside a sealed atrium Wagner has on display at Cebit. It won't light.

6,000 feet? People regularly burn wood above 6,000 feet don't they? Basically, someone in a mountain state with a wood stove, or camping. People in the Andes are probably burning wood even higher than that.

Does someone know how this is supposed to work? Am I missing something?

Re:Maybe I am stupid but . . . (1)

TommydCat (791543) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406901)

I imagine that the oxygen-deprived environment at 6,000ft would be just like the oxygen-deprived environment at sea level if you're inside...

I call bullshit (0, Redundant)

Secrity (742221) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406629)

Does this mean that things don't burn above 6,000 altitude? I guess that I just imagined having camp fires above 8,000 feet in the Rockies. I saw the remains of a wooden building at over 14,000 feet that had burned to the ground. Something doesn't smell right with this article.

Re:I call bullshit (2, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406801)

I saw this comment and saw that someone else had already explained this to someone else that had asked the same stupid question. But since you were modded up to +5 I guess I'll deal with this instance. The air in the data center at sea level with 14% oxygen has approximately the same amount of oxygen per cubic foot as the rarefied air at ~6,000 feet. Why? Because the air is denser. Note that TFA never claims that it is the same percentage of oxygen, only the same amount. These words mean entirely different things.

If you are a native english speaker, shame on you! You have no command whatsoever of your native language.

If you are not a native english speaker, I highly suggest that you return to your studies, because this language is stupid and you need more help with it. Don't feel bad - it happens to people of all countries who are trying to speak it. Including those who grew up speaking it.

Re:I call bullshit (5, Interesting)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406809)

No, at 6000 feet there is still the same percentage of oxygen in the air, but at a lower pressure. This removes oxygen from the air. For a same volume of space it would have as much oxygen as a similar volume at 6000 feet.

Something will burn with the lower concentration of oxygen, but would be much less likely to ignite into open flame. It'd smolder slowly, and give you much more time to react to it.

It's a confusing analogy to explain a simple technical concept, because tech writers assume everybody is beneath their intelligence. Like putting too much air in a balloon.

Easy solution (5, Funny)

tsstahl (812393) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406659)

Redesignate the open floor space as the management conference room. The oxygen will be sucked out in no time.

Use CO2 - Could even be environmentally friendly (1)

asciimonster (305672) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406749)

I guess removing the oxygen from air is a very energy inefficient method. I've got an environmentally better solution:

Why, in stead of nitrogen enriched air, use carbondioxyde (CO2) gas? CO2 is not flammable and doesn't attack the hardware and reduces fire hazard just like nitorgen gas (N2).

Get a server plant a power station (preferably running on natural gas) and a house. Power plant feeds energy to server plant and house. Power plant feeds produced CO2 to server plant. Coolant is first fed to servers and then to power plant. Afterwards used to heat house. There simply is no added energy required.

Get a greenhouse, feed it with CO2 from power plant to make food for the house and presto!

____
Some of my entries might have been filed under "B" for bad ideas, I have no idea why.

Re:Use CO2 - Could even be environmentally friendl (1)

Ignis Flatus (689403) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406835)

yeah, but CO2 is actually poisonous to breathe in any quantity for very long. space stations and shuttles have CO2 scrubbers for a reason.

Great (3, Funny)

GreggBz (777373) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406751)

Great, now I have to wear a wireless bluetooth headset AND an oxygen mask when I'm on a tech support in the Data Center.
The guys in HR already call me "space man."

How much power does it use? (1)

Ignis Flatus (689403) | more than 7 years ago | (#18406765)

many many moons ago, i worked briefly at an oxygen concentrator manufacturing company. which is basically what this unit sounds like, an oxygen concentrator that sort of works in reverse, you keep the exhaust and throw away the product. these devices work by forcing compressed air through a molecular sieve - nitrogen adheres to the sieve and O2 passes straight through. but then you've got to get the nitrogen back out of the sieve, which requires decompressing the filter medium. all that energy you used to filter the air is then lost and you must start again. so through a series of compressions and decompressions, you can extract some pretty high purity O2 (about 95% was typical then), in a convenient home unit, but with the drawback of not being very energy efficient.
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