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Hardware IT

Managing Servers In the Frigid Cold 122

1sockchuck writes "Some data centers are kept as chilly as meat lockers. But IT operations in colder regions face challenges in managing conditions — hence Facebook's to use environmentally controlled trucks to make deliveries to its new data center in Sweden, which is located on the edge of the Arctic Circle. The problem is the temperature change in transporting gear. 'A rapid rate of change (in temperature) can create condensation on the electronics, and that's no good,' said Facebook's Frank Frankovsky."
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Managing Servers In the Frigid Cold

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  • Suck it up, pussies. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @03:55PM (#40898427) Homepage Journal

    Sincerely, Finland.

    Been pretty shitty weather all summer here. Oh and I remember vividly when we were kids and we were coming down from a family trip in the winter, we couldn't play the new games we had bought before the next morning since the 8mhz bugger wouldn't boot until the "computer room"(porch thingy, badly insulated) heated up. And many many times we were playing games with our winter jackets on, maybe our parents were trying to discourage from being such nerds but they failed.

  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @04:00PM (#40898469)

    Cold drive bearings don't want to spin up / SMART fail from drive motor overcurrent.
    Happens to cooling fans too. Fan can't spin so equipment overheats.
    I've never knowingly had a voice coil bearing seize up, which is interesting because its probably the lowest power actuator in the system yet probably the highest precision / smallest tolerances.

  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @04:12PM (#40898615)

    Oh I thought of another one. The problem has nothing to do with temperature. The problem is when the indoor/outdoor/dew points intersect which happens all the time, not just when its cold.

    One excruciatingly humid summer day I was hauling around a protocol analyzer worth about as much as my car, and it cold soaked in front of the car air conditioner duct cooling itself to 40 degrees or whatever the AC output is, then it was dripping condensed water as I carried it into the customer premises, an un-airconditioned factory floor. So I'm sitting there doing nothing and explaining to the customer how I have to do nothing, until the test set dries off because its too cold (customer VP looks out window at blue sky 110 degree day). Yes that was an unpleasant meeting.

  • by N1zaam ( 2598947 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @04:15PM (#40898643)
    A few years back while doing Tier 2 level support for a major Canadian telco, I started seeing overheating alarms from some Nokia DSLAM's. The odd thing was that it was -40C outside at the time. It turns out the fan's on these DSLAM's froze solid and the devices thought they where overheating and throwing alams left right and centre. We had to put a tarp over them with a heater during the winter to make sure they kept going.
  • by oodaloop ( 1229816 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @04:28PM (#40898773)
    In the Marine Corps, I had some cold weather training before a deployment to Norway. We were instructed to leave our rifles outside of our tents. Otherwise, they would accumulate condensation inside the barrels, which would then freeze when you walk outside. Lots of fun stuff like that.
  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @04:32PM (#40898811)

    RUNNING machines in plastic bags? I'm not sure you understood the problem domain.

    You don't understand the solution.

    Put the equipment into plastic bags before loading it on the truck (if it's new equipment, it's probably already wrapped in plastic.

    Then when you unload it in the warm datacenter, the moisture condenses on the outside of the bag instead of inside your server.

    Once the server is up to room temperature, take it out of the bag, rack it and plug it in, and you're good to go. (Note that in warm humid states, you can have the opposite problem - the cold server is taken from the 65 degree datacenter out to the 95 degree and humid outside air and moisture condenses on it. The plastic bag works here too.)

    You don't need to go to Sweden to experience cold temperatures - many datacenters throughout the USA experience temperatures cold enough to cause condensation problems for at least part of the year. The plastic also helps protect equipment that's exposed to moisture that condenses in clouds and falls to the ground (i.e. rain) as it's transferred from the truck to the facility. A problem that Facebook will discover once they open their first datacenter in a rainforest and perhaps they can invent some self deploying canopy that shields the equipment from this mysterious moisture from the sky since they don't seem to like the low-tech plastic bag solution.

  • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @05:10PM (#40899217)

    Low RH is bad because you get static buildup. Sure we've got anti-static wax on the floor and all the cages are grounded, but I still don't want to risk frying a computer because I couldn't keep RH in the right range. Also low RH is easy to achieve since CRAC units due it by their nature =) Even in the middle of summer you have to run humidifiers.

  • by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @08:40PM (#40900849) Journal

    Every time you move something from a cold place in to a warmer one (higher humidity in the air implicit, since higher temperature means higher point of saturation)

    Actually that is not implicit. Up here in the frozen wastes of central Alberta in the winter the indoor humidity drops to incredibly low values of 10-20% because there is no moisture in the outside air because it is at -40C and even then has low humidity. This means that condensation is never really a problem - you might get a bit of it but it very quickly evaporates because of the incredibly low humidity inside. In fact the humidity gets so low that our data centre has a humidifier to bump it up to the safe operating range of machines.

    Conversely in the UK where there is no extreme cold weather (yes I know the beeb goes nuts if London drops below -5C but sorry, that doesn't count!) but lots of humidity. As a kid I used to have far more problems with my glasses fogging up when I came inside during the winter that I do in Canada.

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson