Jason Hood, global segment manager for infrastructure at Roxtec, explains how DC managers can take proper action towards hardening critical infrastructure
Climate change represents one of the biggest threats to all infrastructure, including communications infrastructure and data centres. Specifically, sea-level rise caused by melting ice sheets and glaciers could have a substantial impact on data centres. The volume of seawater is also increasing due to thermal expansion of oceans caused by warmer temperatures.
With current sea level rise projections, hundreds of communities in the US alone will face chronic inundation over the next two decades. Recent research indicates that over the next 15 years, sea level rise will affect over 4000 miles of internet infrastructure and over 200 data centres in the US.
Even outside of coastal areas, heavy rainfall events pose a threat to infrastructure and data centres. The number of extreme single-day rainfall events remained fairly steady until the 1980s. In recent years, the number of extreme rainfall events has increased as much as 71 percent in some parts of the US. These events can cause river and localised flooding. Based on the location of the data centre, the real threat might not be floodwaters inundating the data centre, but rather, the power and communications infrastructure servicing it. For example, underground maintenance holes, utility ducts, power and fibre chambers could be at constant risk due to rising water table levels. These areas can fill with water and cause water to backup into buildings.
Additionally, water can cause immediate failure of power systems, and longer term, can cause premature failure of power and fibre cables. Even the presence of humidity can also cause failure in power equipment, reducing operation reliability and uptime.
Preparing for natural disaster
In addition to water and flooding, data centres are threatened by other weather-related events such as high and low temperature extremes, drought, hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes. When constructing new data centres, operators can best prepare for these threats by practising proper site selection guidelines, where avoiding locations that are prone to natural disasters is the best preparation.
There are very good guidelines for site selection such as TIA 942 and BICSI/ANSI 002. Several government agencies also provide historical data that help identify natural disaster-prone areas. While mitigating risk by avoiding disaster-prone areas makes sense, it is not always possible.