Highest-level fire-safety protection and security for Swiss data centre

By Miguel Angel Coll, Fire Safety and Security, Siemens Building Technologies

Business continuity is vital for data centre operation. The critical data must of course be safeguarded against cyber attacks, but the building itself and the associated infrastructure including servers must also be protected. Protecting the data centre from the threat of fire is fundamental to ensure maximum system uptime and availability. For data centre service providers such as Safe Host, this means employing effective, reliable and robust technologies that provide real reassurance to customers that their data is absolutely protected.

Geneva-based Safe Host is one of the leading providers of data-centre and workplace recovery services in Switzerland. Safe Host owns a six-story building, five of which are occupied by approximately 12,000 servers and storage devices (Network Attached Storage) containing the data of more than 140 customers. The expansion of the data centre was driven by demand – the facility being equipped floor by floor with the latest technology, as and when required. For this reason, Safe Host’s building now contains different generations of fire detection and extinguishing equipment. Some floors use detectors and control panels from the older AlgoRex line, while most are equipped with devices from Siemens’ current Sinteso family. All security devices are managed using a central Siemens management station that collects information from more than 2,800 data points and visualises them on 60 graphical displays of all the floors.

When protection of data is the overriding consideration, even a small electrical fire can have significant consequences; detection of any fire at the earliest possible point is therefore critical. The building is today divided into 350 fire detection zones and uses no fewer than 830 highly sensitive fire detectors from Siemens’ Sinteso and AlgoRex families. They are supported by approximately 30 aspirating smoke detectors (ASDs) that continuously analyse air in the rooms for smoke particles. This kind of aspirating detection is widely used in data centres as it provides the earliest warning of the incipient stages of a fire when cool smoke has insufficient thermal buoyancy to rise to the ceiling where detectors are traditionally located. The inability for the smoke to reach conventional detectors is often exacerbated by the large air volumes created by the computer room air-conditioning systems (CRACs), required to maintain an optimal computing environment. All detectors throughout the Safe Host building are connected to four fire control panels, supplemented by floor repeater displays. Some 50 manual call points are also installed at strategic locations and in an emergency, 65 alarm sounders ensure that the building is evacuated effectively.

Advanced fire safety solutions for data centres
The automatic extinguishing system meets all of the requirements specific to data centres. Solutions using water or water mist are not recommended. The moisture could potentially cause more damage to the servers’ sensitive electronics than the fire itself. For this reason, Safe Host uses a Sinorix gas extinguishing system. If the fire detectors confirm a fire, the system automatically triggers the extinguishing process. Valves on the gas cylinders in the basement of the building are opened and nitrogen, as an inert natural gas, flows through a network of pipes to wherever it is needed. There, the nitrogen displaces oxygen, depriving the fire of one of its essential components. Once the oxygen level is reduced from 20.9% to under 14% any fire is extinguished and re-ignition is impossible. This all happens in a matter of seconds and it is an effective way to extinguish both open and smoldering fires. Nitrogen also poses zero risks to human health or well-being.

Today, Safe Host’s customers include international aid organisations such as UNICEF and the International Committee of the Red Cross, Swiss luxury goods manufacturer Chopard and French carmaker PSA Peugeot Citroën. Gérard Sikias, CEO of Safe Host explains: “Our customers include many international organisations, global companies and financial institutions for which a loss of data would be an absolute disaster.”

“As a service provider we guarantee the safety of our customers’ valuable data by protecting them as best and as comprehensively as possible”, says Sikias. “In addition to a site with low external risks, as is the case here outside the city centre, our security concept also includes the use of best-of-breed safety and security technology from Siemens. Our entire data centre is designed for high redundancy according to the N+1 principle: This extends not only to IT, but also to essential systems such as uninterruptible power supply (UPS), emergency generators and the automatic gas extinguishing system.”

System modernisation
Why are a timely modernisation and smoke detector replacement so important? Often, older systems no longer meet the safety requirements currently prescribed for new installations. As time goes by, they also require increasingly intensive maintenance. Additionally, many factors change within your company – whether products, services, or working methods and processes. These aspects affect your safety needs, which is why your fire detection system requires a timely modernisation.
The Sinteso Move modernisation solution comprises three phases, which means that the smoke detector replacement can be completed in several steps. This ensures minimum business interruptions and maximum system availability. Your employees, visitors and operations will be almost entirely unaffected by the smoke detector replacement.

Phase 1: Gradually replace old smoke detectors with Sinteso Move detectors

Existing detectors are replaced by Sinteso Move detectors, either individually or section by section.
This can be performed as part of a scheduled maintenance, with no need for construction measures, as existing cables can be simply be reused. The old detectors are professionally removed and disposed of. This process an be perfomed as part of a contractually agreed Sinteso detector revision.

Phase 2: Updating existing danger management system after completed smoke detector replacement

All detectors have been replaced. Often, this phase involves no more than supplying your existing danger management system with a software update. This ensures that the combined monitoring and operation of your various safety systems and your fire detection system, including the new smoke detectors, is state-of-the-art.

Phase 3: Modernising existing control panel structure with Sinteso

Your existing fire control panels are now replaced with Sinteso control panels. This allows you to enjoy all the benefits of the Sinteso technology, for example:
– Deception-free ASAtechnology™ of the Sinteso Move detectors
– Intuitive user interface
– Complex fire controls
– Unique networking options

The Sinteso fire protection system is an award-winning detection system from Siemens’ fire protection range. It is an integral system that detects smoke and fire within seconds, and reacts accordingly. The winner of the 2010 European Fire Detection Equipment Market Product Line award, its solutions react quickly, correctly and adequately to fully protect you and your equipment from damage and disaster. The Sinteso systems are all fully customisable to meet each clients’ needs fully.

AlgoRex is Siemens’ leading and most well-established fire detection system. Celebrated back in 1994 as a world first, it soon conquered the globe. Foolproof early fire detection filled everyone with awe and soon proved itself in practice. Today, millions of users depend on AlgoRex completely. Present AlgoRex installations are readily retrofitted with new algorithms when they are put to a different use. Another innovation is TeleRex®, the wireless fire detection system. As reliable as hardwired fire detectors, it is the perfect answer for museums and buildings of historic significance.
With the Siemens fire alarm maintenance service, we offer preventive and corrective measures for convenient, safe and efficient system operation. Sinteso Move offers you several new options: During a detector revision, soiled or defective detectors can be recplaced with Sinteso Move detectors – instead of a detector of the same type. Detectors can be replaced individually or section by section, without the need for construction measures and as part of a scheduled maintenance.
The new detectors enable a more reliable fire alarm and provide a good foundation for a later modernisation of your fire detection system.

The Siemens Infrastructure & Cities Sector (Munich, Germany), with approximately 87,000 employees, offers sustainable technologies for metropolitan areas and their infrastructures. Its offerings include integrated mobility solutions, building and security technology, power distribution, smart grid applications, and low- and medium-voltage products. The Sector comprises the Divisions Rail Systems, Mobility and Logistics, Low and Medium Voltage, Smart Grid, and Building Technologies. For more information, visit www.siemens.com/infrastructure-cities

The Siemens Building Technologies Division (Zug, Switzerland) is the world leader in the market for safe and energy-efficient buildings (“green buildings”) and infrastructures. As a service provider, system integrator, and product vendor, Building Technologies has offerings for building automation, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), fire protection and security.

For more information, visit www.siemens.com/buildingtechnologies



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