SOLUTIONS | Fire Detection & Suppression

Fire Detection & Suppression

Safe data centers are the indispensable backbone of today’s highly engineered society. They are processing an ever-increasing quantity of videos, voice and data throughout a global network of several billion devices. Applications such as social media, cloud computing, online banking and e-healthcare solutions impact our life everyday. In today’s world, no one can afford not to be connected.

Detection Approaches

There are numerous detection approaches available for use within data centers to provide early warning of a fire. The inherent criticality and essential nature of the equipment in data centers will often dictate the detection approach. Detection strategies typically include spot-type smoke detectors, air-aspirating smoke detectors (e.g., smoke sampling chamber with a sampling tube network), or a combination thereof. As with any approach, there are advantages and disadvantages to these strategies. The data center design and stakeholder goals help to guide the detection design.


Spot-type smoke detectors are a very common smoke detection strategy used in data centers. They are often an inexpensive and simple solution. There are two primary forms of spot-type smoke detection: ionization-based detectors and photoelectric smoke detectors. Newer types of intelligent, spot-type detection technologies use built-in algorithms with multiple sensors or multi-criteria to adapt to their environment and minimize the likelihood of false alarms.


Air-aspirating or air-sampling detection is becoming increasingly popular in data center applications. This type of detection is known for its ability to detect a fire in its incipient stages and therefore provide earlier warning and faster response time than traditional detection. Similar to intelligent spot-type detectors, air-aspirating detection has the ability to detect a fire at differing smoke obscuration thresholds and can therefore provide multiple warning levels.

Suppression Systems

Facility managers have a range of factors to consider when it comes to data center fire suppression systems. The primary fire protection systems used within data centers typically include: wet pipe sprinklers, pre-action sprinklers, and special suppression (i.e., clean agent, inert gas, or mist). Suppression systems need to consider higher challenge areas such as automated information storage systems units and tape libraries. The preferred clean agent is NOVEC 1230.

With the arrival of December, the number of hyper scale data centers around the world has reached 300 facilities, according to a report from Synergy Research.

The number was nudged upwards with the recent opening of new server farms by Amazon, Google and Alibaba. US still hosts more hyper scale data centers than any other country, being responsible for 135 individual sites or 45 percent of the total 300 hyper scales.

The term ‘hyper scale’ refers not just to the size of a data center, but also its network architecture and the approach to hardware.

“Hyper scale growth goes on unabated and we are forecasting that hyper scale operators will pass the 400 data center mark by the end of 2018,” said John Dinsdale, a chief analyst and research director at Synergy Research Group.

— Datacenter Dynamics —

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