Data Centers and Lightning Protection Systems
Data Center Lightning Risk Factors:
When people send data and computing services into the cloud, they want confidence that it can be downloaded when needed. But what if a cloud (the meteorological type) downloads something else first — a lightning strike that hits a data center or server farm? Too often, it means goodbye data. Adiós building safety. Auf wiedersehen investments. Sayonara confidence.
To understand the magnitude of the problem, compare the electrical current in a single data processor to that of a lightning strike. As circuits within chips continue to get smaller, allowable power loads also decrease to a mere fraction of a milliamp. Yet a lightning strike upon a data center releases tens of thousands of amps and sends millions of volts surging through all available paths seeking ground. If even a fraction of that current enters a processor, it will corrupt a calculation, fry a circuit, or destroy an entire server.
In addition, the capricious whim of lightning can spark fires, destroy structural elements, knock-out vital systems such as cooling, power, and security, and even take an entire server farm offline. That is why data center and communication lightning protection is so paramount.
Lightning causes more disruptions to data centers than get reported. These examples, however, were too big to be ignored by news media:
Customers were unable to access the company’s U-verse platform following a data center fire caused by lightning.
A cloud computing service was offline for more than four hours after an electrical storm damaged power equipment.
Four successive lightning strikes hit the electrical systems and caused a loss of power to storage systems.
Lightning disrupted the power supply and knocked the cooling systems offline, damaging “a significant amount” of equipment.
Special risk factors:
Circuit boards are no match for powerful lightning surges. A lightning protection system provides a network of low resistance pathways that safely conduct powerful lightning surges between the atmosphere and earth — and away from mission-critical electronic components and building systems.
Photo: RogDel,CC BY-2.0
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Data Center Lightning Protection Case Studies
Data CenterCyrusOne | Houston, TX 01 / 02
A co-location data center like this CyrusOne facility in Houston, TX can’t afford downtime due to lightning. The roof-top air terminals (lightning rods) do not distract from the aesthetics of the building and are located where they can intercept lightning strikes and then safely route the power through conductors into the ground. Rooftop cooling equipment and architectural features such as the vaulted skylight are also included in the lightning protection system. Photo: Hicks Lightning Protectionmore about lightning protection
Data CenterEquinix Data Center 02 / 02
At this Equinix data center, formerly owned by Verizon, 24-inches tall air terminals (see arrows) were installed instead of the twelve or fifteen inch tall rods used on many applications. The taller rods provide a larger zone of protection and can be spaced further apart to better align with the structure's architectural features. The antenna tower is also protected by the lightning protection system. Photo: Northeast Lightning Protection, LLCmore about lightning protection