The heat is gone….

First off why is it that in this day and age we feel the need to have to constantly come up with interesting and witty blog post titles?  Not that I’m saying that’s what I do (or what this blog does) but I happen to be pretty proud of this recent one!  Of course it is only really relevant to people from the 80s or before…..Anyway, moving swiftly on this is, of course, about server room air conditioning, why wouldn’t it be?!

When I first arrived at ISSG all those years ago I was faced with a sys admins nightmare, yep you guessed it – the old “servers on a rickety table” scenario.  The obligatory school-style tables, you know the ones, square steel legs and a thin wood-like substance screwed on top, the kind you can tip over with one finger.


That and atop them a pair of seriously heavy servers from back in the day when weight meant power and quality. It was instantly obvious that some serious upgrading would be required to fulfil the brief of a “proper” network.  (from the job description I took “proper” to mean secure and robust, IE: MS domain!)

The early plan was set, we’d install a decent level of resilient hardware, since we were talking active directory and exchange and of course heeding Microsoft’s instructions we would need two.  A couple of decent mid-range servers, redundant bits and bobs, a Domain Controller and an Exchange server one thing was immediately obvious…..

The table simply wasn’t going to take it!

After some of the anticipated corporate tooing and froing we have a server “room” or to put it correctly a couple of stud walls boxing in the comms kit that was situated in the corner.  But you know what, it’s plenty good enough, so with corner of the room enclosure holding the comms kit we were nearly prepared for our servers.

The final thing prior to our investment was to get some cooling in.  I’ve never really delved to deeply into the theory of cooling, but I assume that if electronics equipment is kept in a (more or less) constant environment it lasts longer.  Unfortunately this does not take into account an old building, more importantly an old buildings wiring.

The servers were definitely mid-range, but decent, in a SME I suppose you could classify the cost as high, but the combined cost (inclusive of the server room works) didn’t even equate to the amount that was being spent on Telephony, and small potatoes when compared to the department annual spend.  Even so the cost of the exercise proved to be too rich, and so the trade off was to _only_ afford a small, portable, AC unit.

This aforementioned unit (a “Dalek” according to the original supplier) was powered from a good old three pin plug, and did well to last as long as it did but sadly it expired (or should that be it was exterminated?!) over the New Year, but that’s ok, due to to the awful wiring we’ve cooked our servers a few times since installation – a scenario I hope to never have to repeat, arrive in the office on a Monday morning and the first sign of worry was the lack of noise, open the server room door and it’s like exiting a plane in Egypt (something I have experienced!) with a blast of hot air in the face, to then find your rather expensive servers are literally too hot to touch!

Well we finally sorted that out – step forward and with the assistance of some extremely dodgy builders we now have one of these installed –

It’s great, but the cable poked out of the wrong side, so all of the nice holes drilled in the old building wall had to be abandoned in favour of hanging the indoor unit on the “new” stud wall of the server room.  I was worried about vibration and noise, I needn’t have been, it’s whisper quiet – it seems really efficient, 19 degrees with hardly any effort, and what’s more it’ll resume working _if_ we get any of those dodgy Penzance brownouts!

So all good right?  Well here’s the rub….the server room has an air gap or two, and this system is obviously so powerful that a 6 x 8 room isn’t enough for it, so it’s proceeded to suck all of the heat (and apparently quite a bit of moisture too) out of the main office too!  I’m not sure if it’s too cold just yet, but boy is it noticeable, iffy storage heaters in our main office too, so we’re relying on an oil filled heater for now.

The point is that this only reinforces my belief in the crucial point of getting a server environment just right – our servers have failed on several occasions, we’ve lost drives and PSUs for fun (one more recent critical event saw us lose two drives from a RAID5 over a weekend) and if this has in any way been helped along by the poor cooling situation……well…’s partly down to me isn’t it?

Next job….expanding foam and door draft excluder!

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