Achieving Fireproof Network Reliability

As the need for secure broadband networking capabilities increases, it is imperative that data centers be protected against any threats. Zama Networks Inc., a company providing Internet infrastructure and managed services deployment, has designed a state-of-the-art environment that has helped put its customers' minds at ease.


As the need for secure broadband networking capabilities increases, it is imperative that data centers be protected against any threats. Zama Networks Inc., a company providing Internet infrastructure and managed services deployment, has designed a state-of-the-art environment that has helped put its customers' minds at ease.

Zama's facility, located just south of downtown Seattle, contains administrative offices, a network operations center (NOC) and a 16,000-sq.-ft. co-location equipment room that accommodates racks upon racks of servers for its network customers. The 56,000-sq.-ft. facility also houses telephone equipment, DC power and battery storage, rectifiers, UPS and AC switchgear.

Finding a fire solution

One of the significant challenges was finding a smoke- and fire-detection system that would respond promptly and accurately while providing detailed facts on possible fire location.

According to Tim Martin, vice president of implementation engineering at Zama, "Fire suppression on the data floor is a key concern. We required a solution that not only could deploy reliable sensors to detect smoke immediately, but could also allow us to employ earliest intervention."

The initial design considered by Zama provided no specific information regarding smoke source location and had an inadequate early warning system for slow smoldering fires—putting the facility at a higher risk than what Zama was willing to accept. Although this choice was sensor-based, it was only capable of monitoring 900-sq.-ft. sections, making detection more difficult to immediately trace. To complicate matters, temperatures in the server rooms varied. Because data centers emit intense heat and require constant air conditioning to generate cooling, the resulting high air flow made smoke detection difficult.

Zama enlisted the help of a local fire-protection installer, Fire Chief Equipment. After studying Zama's environment and analyzing exact requirements, the distributor began researching which system was best suited to this type of setting and what would best interface with the facility's existing management system. According to Robert Vogt, manager of engineered systems at Fire Chief Equipment, "Traditional smoke detectors go into alarm when a fire could already be in its later stages. We sought a system that was capable of detecting smoke in the very early stages of a fire, and could pinpoint the location of the source within seconds."

Setting it up

After evaluating the options, Zama chose very-early warning detectors with interfacing control panels, which met the integration requirements and joined the building's existing monitoring system for generators, air conditioning, monitor modules and the sprinkler systems.

With its tightly focused laser light beam, plus special lens and mirror optics, the detector is ideally suited for computer rooms, telephone switching facilities, delicate medical areas and clean rooms. It can differentiate between dust and smoke particles and is designed to reject false signals caused by larger airborne particles such as lint and small insects.

In addition, the control panel has a unique "cooperative detection" feature that enables several sensors to consider readings from adjacent sensors and to detect low-level smoke—instead of a single sensor detecting smoke at a higher level. This quick response buys the data center more time to prevent a disaster.

The advanced technology provides unprecedented value in ensuring the safety of employees, visitors, equipment and mission-critical data.

Julie Bowlin, the network operations team lead at Zama, agrees, "We turned to this detector for very-early warning smoke detection as part of our pre-action suppression system. We found this to be the best choice for us."

With these state-of-the-art fire-detection capabilities, Zama maintains uninterruptible power, ensuring continuity of service and ultimately unsurpassed customer satisfaction, which all enables Zama to carry out their promise: to bring the next generation Internet to the world.

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