Beware Mulch-Driven Downtime

Here’s a new one: a data center downtime incident sparked by smoldering mulch. The Perth iX data center in western Australia shut down for an hour on Monday after its VESDA (Very Early Smoke Detection Apparatus) system detected smoke in the data center.

“Our network operations employees spent some time trying to determine the source of the smoke but were unable to locate a fire within the centre,” Beau Quarry, director of the business at Perth iX, told IT News. “Given that small amounts of smoke continued to be detected in the centre, it was determined that to safeguard employees and equipment that the centre should be manually shutdown.”

The problem was traced to a smoldering mulch-filled garden bed alongside the outside wall of the facility. Police and fire officials declined to cite a cause. We’re not sure what that hour of downtime cost the company, but it’s a safe bet that it would cost-justify getting an outdoor ashtray (or at least a “butt can”) in potential employee smoking areas.

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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  1. PGT

    Mulch is known to self-ignite....the bacterial breakdown within a pile generates heat and smolders. It's unlikely there was enough to do this outside a datacenter, but perhaps landscapers were recently onsite and forgot to spread out a pile.

  2. Let's not forget that it can be 40C in the shade in Perth (home sweet home) and it's going into summer so smokers or self-combustion are both reasonable explanations. Don't know how the VESDA tech works but early radioactive smoke detectors would go close to picking up striking a match on the other side of the room... the earlier the better with fire eh? (just not too early as was the case here - arguably better safe than sorry) Sam

  3. Outside air quality monitoring is vital when using air-side economization in combination with datacenter fire-suppression systems, as anything that is outside quickly gets pulled inside. Therefore extend your awareness outside the facility and be ready to override the fire-detection systems from reading false-positives.

  4. Mitchell Hodus

    I'm sure the senior management team of that facility has egg on their face this morning. I'm all for safety, but if you have done a check and cant find the source of the problem, you stay OPEN and continue to look for the problem. While the team was able to safely shut down the equipment, you know that there had to be impact to customers on the way down and there will most certainly be impact on the way up as an entire data center never comes up 100% clean. This is a situation where safe meant to continue to look for a potential problem instead of knowing that you will create one if you shut down. Hey, that is what I would have done if it was my data center.