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Founder Of Technology
Jun 19, 2018

This week, a Nasdaq Nordic stock exchange data center in Finland was taken down by its fire suppression system. But these systems don’t use water to quench the flames, so how can they knock out a bunch of hard drives?

The answer, most likely, is loud noise.

It wouldn’t be the first time this happened. Similar incidents occurred last yearat a Microsoft’s Azure data center in Europe and an ING Bank center in Romania in 2016. “When those systems go off there’s a shockwave that can disrupt the technology,” Greg Schulz,founder of technology advisory and consulting firm StorageIO, told Gizmodo.

When a fire starts in a data center, it wouldn’t make sense to dump water on all of the machinery. So these centers rely instead on a special kind of gas, usually consisting of carbon bonded to halogen elements like chlorine or fluorine. The gas usually serves to prevent oxygen from fueling the fire.

But, explained Schulz, the release of the gas can come with a shockwave. Sound is ultimately just vibrations in the air, translated into noise by your brain. And inevitably, there are mechanical parts to computers, like spinning fans or even spinning disk drives. A recent study by Siemens found that vibrations from sound as loud as 110 decibels could damage a hard drive. The fire extinguisher nozzles could be as loud as 130 decibels.

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