In a Rush to improve data center efficiency

03/01/2009


Efficient information technology (IT) has become a necessity at hospitals nationwide. Patient records, diagnostic images, prescriptions, and financial information must be protected. At Rush University Medical Center in Chicago , the capacity to handle and process such data has increased 20-fold over the past 20 years. Erected in 1986, the hospital's data center manages the critical IT infrastructure in a building adjacent to the hospital. The data center needed an upgraded protection system for its servers, data storage drives, and backup tape system.

 

Wil Raske, director of data center operations at Rush, chose to replace the data center's outdated, Halon-based fire detection and suppression system with the Sinorix fire suppression system from Siemens Building Technologies , Inc. (SBT), which is designed to protect all of the data and network systems required to deliver patient information to caregivers.

 

The 600-bed hospital and research facility is committed to employing green standards whenever possible. Therefore, the selected equipment had to be environmentally friendly and not create health risks when discharged. The Sinorix system meets the challenge; it suppresses fire and leaves no residue behind. Interacting at the molecular level, the system differentiates the harmful from the harmless, and removes the heat from the fire triangle. The system operates with Fireprint early warning smoke detection hardware, and a clean agent, HFC-227ea, which has zero ozone depletion potential (ODP). The zero-ODP agent makes the environment safer for inhabitants. Used in inhalers as the propellant to deliver medicine to an asthmatic's lungs, the clean agent's benign nature makes it eligible for credit toward LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council .

 

In discussing Rush's previous system, Raske said, “Our legacy systems were well past their anticipated service life, and we were very concerned about them becoming prone to false discharges. Our service contractors were having trouble finding spare parts, plus the environmental impact of Halon was an obvious consideration. We also knew the consequences of an accidental discharge.”

 

The data at Rush is maintained by Unix-based servers in tandem with 400 Intel-based blade and nonblade servers, which manage an average of 26 terabytes of data. The routers and network controls rest next to the servers and an automated, robotic system manages backup data storage routines. Additionally, the automated system readies data storage tapes for interim on-site, then eventual off-site, storage.

 

“At one time, our data mounting took two and half minutes; now that task is done in six seconds. We have a triple-redundant system whereby everyday, every bit of data from all systems in our network is redundantly recorded. With over 14,000 workstations across the campus, that's a considerable task,” said Raske.

 

Comprised of Siemens Fireprint cross-zone smoke detectors and Sinorix discharge nozzles, the 11,000-sq-ft system includes the data center, test center, and data storage vault. The dispensing tanks hold 4,480 lbs of clean agent and rest just off the main floor of the data center, tape vault, and test room. SBT provided total flooding, which includes the three-level floor/subfloor configuration, where low-and high-voltage wiring and networking cabling are separated by an 18-inch air-cooled space. The two Fireprint smoke detectors operate only when smoke particles are present. The programmable detectors have 11 application-specific settings and perform a self-diagnostic check every four seconds.

 

Siemens provided Rush with key-actuated fail-safe switches that physically lock out the Sinorix suppressant discharge system during detector networking testing and maintenance routines. A keyed switch interrupts the emergency power off actuating circuit, which sends a signal to the main power distribution circuit breakers. The interruption causes the circuits to shut down the power to the data center in the event of a fire.

 

“We have zero tolerance for false alarms. Our former conventional systems would engage an EPO condition via relays in the panel in the event of an alarm. Every 20 minutes of EPO time translates into 48 to 72 hours of downtime to recover the facility's operational status,” Raske said.

 

The data center represents a substantial and ongoing investment, one whose contents must be preserved and protected. Critical data, network system integrity, and security are at the heart of Rush University's ability to operate effectively, safely, and efficiently.

 

Information provided by Siemens Building Technologies.

 

At A Glance

At Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, the capacity to handle and process data has increased 20-fold over the past 20 years. Erected in 1986, the hospital's data center manages the critical IT infrastructure in a building adjacent to the hospital.

 

Rush selected the Sinorix fire suppression system from Siemens Building Technologies, Inc. (SBT) to replace the 20-year old, Halon-based system. The Sinorix system protects the data and network systems required to deliver patient information to caregivers. The system operates with Fireprint early warning smoke detection hardware, and a clean agent, HFC-227ea.

 

The data at Rush is maintained by Unix-based servers in tandem with 400 Intel-based blade and nonblade servers. The 11,000-sq ft system includes the data center, test center, and data storage vault. The dispensing tanks hold 4,480 lbs of clean agent and rest just off the main floor of the data center, tape vault, and test room.



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