back to article Heatwave shmeatwave: Brit IT departments cool their racks – explicit pics

Never let it be said that techies aren't agile or innovative – and perhaps a little slapdash – when solving problems on a tight budget. Only this week, El Reg was given early sight of a pre-patented swanky new cooling system. IT departments at businesses that asked to remain anonymous, for obvious reasons, have devised a …

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  1. LDS Silver badge
    Flame

    I always like when people put flammable materials...

    ... close to equipments that may overheat or send sparks around...

    1. Crisp Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: I always like when people put flammable materials...

      The fools! They should use inflammable materials.

      1. StargateSg7 Bronze badge

        Re: I always like when people put flammable materials...

        "...The fools! They should use inflammable materials....."

        Careful..........Americans might read this and take your words to heart!

        They won't know what to do.........

        As a Canadian, I can appreciate the distinction, but just in case, I did notice some stainless steel tanks with an "Inflammable Liquid" logo sticker on it that I MAYBE suggest using as an IT gear coolant. Just spray it on the hottest parts.....and see if it cools down your gear to a great enough degree!

      2. tinman
        Mushroom

        Re: I always like when people put flammable materials...

        jest ye not, I know a senior engineer who thought that inflammable means doesn't burn...

    2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: I always like when people put flammable materials...

      That's why you always know where the nearest fire extinguisher is. For example, mine is currently acting as a door stop to keep the fire door open for ventilation purposes.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: I always like when people put flammable materials...

        That's why you always know where the nearest fire extinguisher is

        They are all currently locked away in the H&S dept because we don't have an official document specifying if the test date is month/day/year or day/month/year so the test label is invalid so the extinguisher can't be used.

        1. Oengus Silver badge

          Re: I always like when people put flammable materials...

          They are all currently locked away in the H&S dept because we don't have any staff certified to use them (and no one will put up budget to go on a training course).

      2. short a sandwich

        Re: I always like when people put flammable materials...

        The British Standard door stop. Also the bane of H&S people's lives at this time of the year.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: I always like when people put flammable materials...

          Couldn't we just take all the old extinguishers, empty them and use them as door stops?

          Environmentally friendly recycling, and since they couldn't be used as extinguishers H&S can't complain

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: I always like when people put flammable materials...

            "Environmentally friendly recycling, and since they couldn't be used as extinguishers H&S can't complain"

            They would probably ask for and get a budget increase approval to have them painted a special non-fire-extinguishy colour with a large notice on saying "NOT A FIRE EXTINGUISHER" and send all staff on a half day compulsory H&S refresher course to make sure everyone was aware that the new recycled door-stops are NOT FIRE EXTINGUISHERS, all at a far, far higher cost that just buying in a few quids worth of door stops.

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: I always like when people put flammable materials...

              No it would just not have an up to date test label signed by the correct authority - absence of this renders it unable to be used and so there would be no confusion.

              We had to replace all the simple color coded red/black/cream/blue extinguishers with identical red ones and the type written in small letter on the label. So simply labelling these as contents "none" for use on "no fire types" would be sufficent and fully in line with H&S policy

          2. stefbishop

            Re: I always like when people put flammable materials...

            Yes hold the fire doors open!

          3. Mark 85 Silver badge

            Re: I always like when people put flammable materials...

            Couldn't we just take all the old extinguishers, empty them and use them as door stops?

            I know a guy who took a rather large CO2 extinguisher and converted it to a beer tap. Rather impressive to draw a beer and quench one's fiery thirst.

            1. The Oncoming Scorn
              Pint

              Re: I always like when people put flammable materials...

              The same technique was used on illicitly brewed, store & dispense a quick shot of beer if you wanted, on at least one oil rig, until some H&S type decided to test it\real fire & found a different sort of foamy goodness coming out.

    3. Mike Lewis

      Re: I always like when people put flammable materials...

      When I started working at one company, I saw that they were storing half-empty paint tins in the same cupboard as the fuse box. That cupboard was located between our offices and the stairs, cutting off escape if it caught fire. I got my manager to move them.

  2. DonL

    Temperature ratings

    For these reasons, when purchasing network equiptment, I now take operating temperature ratings into account. Some equiptment can accept very high temperatures, making additional cooling during summer unnecessary.

    I never had to use a fan or had heat related outages, but I know these small patch racks can get quite hot at times.

    1. RogerT

      Re: Temperature ratings

      But the suits grumble about the extra 0.5% cost.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Temperature ratings

      One company I worked for had a rack in a south facing 3rd floor room, with large windows. The CEO got air con in his office, but he declared the IT had survived this long without AC, it didn't need it.

      The "trick" was, the first person in in the monring opened the windows wide to allow the air to circulate... :-S

      I installed a thermometer in the room and in the rack. Average summer temperature in the room was 38°C. The middle of the rack was approaching over 60°C!

      Interestingly, we only had one server throw a hissy fit, an 8 year old HP server. The rest (only 6 years old) all ran stably throughout the summer! We did however borrow an air compressor in the June and cleaned the dust out of every machine in the rack, 6 years worth of dust isn't good for the lungs!

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Temperature ratings

        6 years worth of dust isn't good for the lungs

        How about 10 years-worth of cat hair and associated dried mud? That's what I vacced out of an old server once (at home I hasten to add).

        These days, my home computer room door is kept shut[1][2] - prompted by one of the cats being sick all over the network switch. Which meant buying a new one since half the ports stopped working once the stomach acids had done their work on the circuit board..

        [1] Much to the annoyance of senior female cat - she regards any closed door as a personal affront to her dignity.

        [2] Just as well that many years ago, we had aircon fitted to that room - back in the days when I was a contractor and had my own limited company. Which paid for my then motorbike and the computer room aircon.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Temperature ratings

          "Which meant buying a new one"

          Maybe the new one would have been equally sick.

        2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Temperature ratings

          one of the cats being sick all over the network switch.

          That's because you were only using Cat-1 cable.

          Cat5 can withstand upto 5 cats, Cat6 even more - obvious really

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Temperature ratings

            "Cat5 can withstand upto 5 cats, Cat6 even more - obvious really"

            Indeed, it's the most resistant to feline vomit. That's why it's called Cat Sicks.

      2. Linker3000
        Mushroom

        Re: for the cost of a tape to copy them to and delivery.

        At one place I worked, the in-house facilities guys turned one end of an office block into a fully airconned computer room with raised flooring:

        1) They boxed-in a row of radiators behind drywall - but didn't shut them down, so from the getgo the room never reached the expected temperature. The aircon guys spent ages recalculating things, checking equipment etc., before someone commented 'does this wall seem warm to you..?' Out came the padsaw, holes were cut and valves were turned. The room temperature dropped, but the ugly holes were never fixed.

        2) They put the room stat on a pillar next to a window so it was affected by outside temperature and sunshine. The room went into superchill mode when the sun was shining, and on very cold days the aircon would hardly kick in and the room stayed toasty. When someone put 2+2 together, the stat was relocated.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Temperature ratings

      "Some equipment can accept very high temperatures, making additional cooling during summer unnecessary."

      If you setup your patch rack correctly then any internal fans will be more than adequate to push airflow through and out of the cabinet - and if you think they're going to get hot then specify one with appropriate fans and acoustic baffling in the first place.

      One way of achieving this is to ensure that the first places to lose network connectivity in the event of overheating are the offices of the beancounters, sales and HR.

  3. MrKrotos

    Why is this even a story?

    This is normal for us Brits, I remember building a server with bits from Simply Computers many years ago. It had a ton of 9.2GB SCSI drives in it that ran hot enough to fry an egg on, obvs we took the front panel off and stuck a desk fan infront of it to blow through. Worked like a champ for years :P

    1. Chris King Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Why is this even a story?

      Those sound like Micropolis disks. No need for a space heater in winter when you've got a couple of those in your workstation.

      That, or Quantum Fireballs. The most aptly-named disks I ever used because they always felt like they were going to spontaneously burst into flame after a few hours use.

      Icon, because toasty disks - AIIIIEEE !!! hot hot HOT HOT HOT !!!

      1. big_D Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Why is this even a story?

        I hat a few QFs. A mate had problems with SCSI termination and was going to through a SCSI card and 4 drives in the bin. I nabbed them off him, set one jumper and had a blindingly fast set up on my PC!

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Why is this even a story?

        No need for a space heater in winter when you've got a couple of those in your workstation

        Ditto for a Dell server with 8 15K RPM drives in the front. The acoustic case mostly muffled the noise but didn't do much for the heat generated. Still, it kept upstairs nice and warm in the winter..

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Why is this even a story?

        "Quantum Fireballs."

        the original 4GB Seagate Barracudas (long before Quantum started naming drives) _required_ forced ventilation and not having it meant loss of warranty. At the time at 7k rpm they were the fastest drives on the market and sounded intimidating as they spun up (they were also $3500 apiece)

  4. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    That last picture

    I applaud your use of a cable, rather than the more traditional gaffa tape, to secure the fan in position. If, however, you accomplished this job whilst standing on a stepladder rather than balancing precariously on an office chair, then you have lost all respect that I might have had for you.

    1. MonkeyBob
      Mushroom

      Re: That last picture

      I assume the cable was secured by plugging both ends into the same switch.

      1. Korev Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: That last picture

        Tying it to some wood also works well. I believe they call that a "Spanning Tree" in network circles

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: That last picture

          Pin it in place with a toolbox and you've got yourself a Spanner Tree!

  5. Claverhouse
    Mushroom

    Wrong Type of Leaves

    There's an opportunity here for some bright sparks to invent some form of cooling computers.

    British businesses should ask how they do it in California.

    1. tfewster Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Wrong Type of Leaves

      The issue is that we don't often get hot weather in the UK, so proper cooling would be a "waste of money". ISTR that UK Elf n Safety regulations specify the lowest temperature staff can be made to work in, but not an upper limit.

      Apparently the business being shut down by overheating kit heat isn't a problem?

      1. WonkoTheSane
        Headmaster

        Re: Wrong Type of Leaves

        Elfin Safety specify no absolute limit either way, but instead rely on the vagueness of the phrase "During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable."

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Wrong Type of Leaves

          "During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable."

          I take that to mean the old Shops, Offices and Railway Premises Act, which did have a minimum working temperature has been superseded then? (IIRC, the minimum temp. had to be reached within an hour of the start of the work day.)

    2. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Re: Wrong Type of Leaves

      British businesses should ask how they do it in California.

      I believe they use this quaint thing called 'money'. IT Depts. in the UK don't get to see a great deal of that.

    3. StargateSg7 Bronze badge

      Re: Wrong Type of Leaves

      "....There's an opportunity here for some bright sparks to invent some form of cooling computers.

      British businesses should ask how they do it in California...."

      ---

      Here in Western Canada, especially parts in southern Alberta (i.e. a Western Canadian Province), some parts are a TRUE DESERT which have temperatures as high as 45 degrees Celcius (113 F) in the summer so Alberta oil company systems engineers who had servers in that area had an ingenious solution! Cutting Fluid!

      Quad CPU server motherboards (Tyan brand usually) and hard drives (Seagate ATA or Western Digital SCSI) were encased in large powder coated aluminum electrical mains boxes that you could buy at any major construction supplies supplier for less than $30 CAN each or about 20 Euros! The powder coating was used to coat the entire interior and exterior of the case so the cutting fluid wouldn't react with the aluminum and the electrical and network connectors, which were the ruggedized kind. They sank 20 such cases into a 1 metre cubed tub and ran the cables to the outside connections. Cutting fluid is usually used in metal machining to cool the milling bits as they cut through stainless and very hard cobalt steels.

      It's the perfect fluid to cool electronics! Just NOT in direct contact with the motherboard because the cutting fluid IS ionic and therefore CONDUCTIVE ... BUT...if you dip a PROPERLY SEALED aluminum mains case with a motherboard or drive into a pool of the stuff, the cooling power was amazing.

      The motherboards were running NO HOTTER than 40 to 45 Celcius at FULL LOAD because the heat transfer was so good even in the hottest part of summer! They just made sure the CPU cooler fins had their fins cut and fitted so the CPU heat transferred directly to the aluminum case and then out to the external cutting fluid.

      The entire process SHOULD have been patented, but the engineers (mostly oil and gas electrical and mechanical engineers) were just solving a local problem! Anyways, it's worked for DECADES! Some of those 2 and 4 core Quad CPU servers are STILL running after nearly 15 to 20 years untouched processing oil and gas reservoir drilling data! Even the DRIVES are still running after 15-to-20 years which is nearly UNHEARD OF in the industry! You would think after so many years the capacitors on the motherboards and the drive bearings would have dried out or broken down after being on 24/7/365 for 20 years!

      Actually it showed just how WELL Tyan mottherboards and Western Digital SCSI drives were built in those days! They weren't cheap! BUT they are STILL running!

    4. shedied

      Re: Wrong Type of Leaves

      In a rare display of candour, and ingenuity, their IT types will happily point out that their servers all faced Westward--that is, before the seasonal Santa Ana winds came and the hardware were engulfed in the blaze along with a few dedicated-but-hopelessly-outdated fire extinguishers

  6. Rich 11 Silver badge

    Have you hit upon an interesting way to cool your tech systems?

    If you have critical kit which regularly gets above 45C, tightly wrap it in 20 metres of 6mm clear plastic tubing. Insert one end of the tubing into one upper femoral artery of your youngest and healthiest intern and the other into the basilic vein of the opposite arm once all the air has been forced from the tubing. The intern will act as an active heat sink for your critical device.

    1. sabroni Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Have you hit upon an interesting way to cool your tech systems?

      Do you vote conservative?

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Have you hit upon an interesting way to cool your tech systems?

        Do you vote conservative?

        Either that or is from the US..

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: Have you hit upon an interesting way to cool your tech systems?

          Either that or is from the US..

          No. If I were from the US I would have used obscure variations on medieval units of measurement rather than bog-standard metric.

          (With apologies to the El Reg Standards Soviet for the obvious omissions.)

        2. Potemkine! Silver badge

          Re: Have you hit upon an interesting way to cool your tech systems?

          Either that or is from the US.

          If from the US he would use a migrant's child rather than an intern. There are plenty of them available for a cheap price.

          1. Rich 11 Silver badge

            Re: Have you hit upon an interesting way to cool your tech systems?

            Goddammit, I haven't even finished writing the UK patent yet and now you're telling me I have to rewrite it for the US.

            No rest for the wicked...

      2. Korev Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Have you hit upon an interesting way to cool your tech systems?

        >Do you vote conservative?

        Sounds like he's found an artory

      3. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Have you hit upon an interesting way to cool your tech systems?

        Do you vote conservative?

        Of course not! What sort of sick fuck do you take me for?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ceiling or floor?

    Always wonder why installers often place up near ceiling where temperature higher than floor and nowhere for warm air to rise.

    Guess it's to keep floor space free for desks. Even so, not rocket science thermally...

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: Ceiling or floor?

      Those 10U wall racks aren't usually that big a problem regarding heat, though. Half the height is patch panels, one or two cable management panels, three or four switches at maybe 100W each. A decent rack design can deal with that.

      Mine (10U) takes 130W max, and internally it's about 5 degrees above ambient

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