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Data Center dust

 
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John Payne_2
Honored Contributor

Data Center dust

A couple of months ago, I found a fine layer of dark 'dust' on all my machines in our 'clean' Data Center. To me, the dust felt a little oily. After a few tries, we finally convinved the facilities manager to go and find out what this stuff is.

He sent a sample of the particulate out to have it analyzed, and the lab he sent it to came back and said the material is most likely from the ventilation system fan belts. (Several sources now think it's the fan belts.)

We have all kinds of servers in the data center...

Question: The fan belt is likely non-conductive, non-flammable, etc. How much do we worry about it? Do we schedule outages for each server and have them blown out? Has this happened to anyone before?

We want to ask around before we go to vendors and get yelled at by them...

Thanks

John
Spoon!!!!
9 REPLIES 9
Jeff Schussele
Honored Contributor

Re: Data Center dust

Hi John,

I would think it all depends on just how thick that layer was. If it was thick enough to start to clog any filters or impede their airflow, then by all means schedule a cleaning job.
If there was *any* metalic residue in the dust then I would schedule it ASAP.
But you certainly want your facility people to inspect the cooling system - particulary all the fans for belt wear. Don't want to have to repeat this down the road I'd think.

Rgds,
Jeff
PERSEVERANCE -- Remember, whatever does not kill you only makes you stronger!
JohnWRuffo
Honored Contributor

Re: Data Center dust

Depending on how "oily" the material was, you may want to use a vacuum to remove the material from the insides of the servers.

Also, just blowing it out will send the particulate matter into the air to be sucked up by nearby servers... ugly.

my two cents.

-john
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John Payne_2
Honored Contributor

Re: Data Center dust

We are not planning on doing anything until the problem is actually fixed...

We would most definitely take the servers out to clean them... (Way too many of them to make this sound like any fun...)
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Michael Tully
Honored Contributor

Re: Data Center dust

There is such thing as a clean data centre. You will always find something other than people trashing it.

One of the worst villians are cardboard boxes and of course people.

The other thing you might to look at if you haven't already is regular cleaning both on the normal floor and sub-floor areas, but I'm sure you already knew that.

The funny thing about facilities management is that they never doing unless someone complains.... (budget ... no way is the general response ...)

Anyone for a Mutiny ?
John Payne_2
Honored Contributor

Re: Data Center dust

Thanks for the posts. It is a very thin layer. There is no metallic residue.

Has this happened to anyone?

Thanks

John
Spoon!!!!
Jeff Schussele
Honored Contributor

Re: Data Center dust

No - not to date anyway.
Worst thing to happen to us was facility people in the datacenter drilling small holes into the false ceiling framing to hang signage.
They didn't think about where the shavings would fall. The 'Domes were sucking it up from several feet away (if you've ever placed an antistatic bag anywhere near a 'Dome you know what I mean). This was causing intermittent deadshorts and failures. Nobody could figure the problem out until one SA happened to see the maint people actually drilling & the light bulb went off. After that they started using vacuums attached to the tool & work area - problem ceased.

Rgds,
Jeff
PERSEVERANCE -- Remember, whatever does not kill you only makes you stronger!
Bill Hassell
Honored Contributor
Solution

Re: Data Center dust

You are fortunate that the material is non-conductive and that the amount is a thin layer. Now the servers will suck a lot more material than is falling on the floor but unless the belts are shredding themselves every month or so, you probably won't see any effect on the systems. Many new systems do not have any air filters, just boulder-blockers to keep the nuts and bolts from getting sucked in.

The worst dust scenario I ever saw was in a rack manufacturing plant. Everything near the computer (an HP 1000) was covered with an oily gray dust...powdered aluminum it turns out. I was called in to replace the floppy drives (5.25" floppies) when the customer reported that the heads were 'sticking' to the media. On examination, the entire computer was so covered with sticky aluminum dust that nothing was recognizable on the boards--yet the computer still ran.

I advised the customer that the computer needed a thorough cleaning and took the whole box apart (in another area) and blew off all the dust. The computer would never run again and had to be scrapped. The (conductive) dust had gotten into connectors and other airgap components that not even a sonic bath would have fixed.

Modern HVAC contractors are quite aware of dust management for data centers and will have designed dust and ion control into the system. Unfortunately, many data centers are using HVAC systems designed for a warehouse.


Bill Hassell, sysadmin
John Payne_2
Honored Contributor

Re: Data Center dust

Thanks for the replies. I guess we will just monitor the 'dust' levels to make sure it doesn't get any worse from here. (It's a very thin layer at this point. We might not have noticed had we not been adding memory to a couple of machines and I was wearing a white shirt, which got dirty.)

About 5 or 6 years ago, we had an old DG machine that sat on the floor next to an air vent in our old data center. (Not clean) One day, the machine fried. We called DG support in, and they opened the machine and found a 1 inch thick layer of dust sitting on the system board. We were all suprised that the machine didn't catch fire sooner. DG replaced the system board, and a couple of weeks later, the Facilities Manager saw dust collecting on the front of the server and on it's clariion array (Raid 5). He asked one of the student operators to vaccum the front of the machine and the front of the disks. She ended up pulling all the disks out of the array and vaccuming them out. The machine paniced, of course, and the facilities manager spent the rest of the weekend tryingt oget the machine up. (Fortunately, the operator knew what order she pulled the disks out in.) After she left the university, we named the vacuum after her and attached her picture to it.

Fun and games.

John
Spoon!!!!
John Payne_2
Honored Contributor

Re: Data Center dust

Thank for the replies.
Spoon!!!!