Surge Protection for Data Center

Surge Protection for Data Center

Created by: Glen Zhu | Updated Date: September 27th, 2023

Data Center Surge Protection

Critical and delicate electronic equipment in data centers needs trustworthy protection from transient over-voltages and surges. These voltage spikes might cause irreparable damage to the delicate electrical parts within a data center.

Surge protectors guarantee that delicate equipment operates safely by diverting excess energy away from it. By implementing the proper industrial surge protection technologies, data centers could lower their chance of suffering substantial financial losses and improve overall reliability.

How data centers can effectively manage power surges

Machines are made up of a number of sensitive components. One power surge can reduce the life span of your IT hardware and any other electronics that are plugged into the wall.

For data centers, which rely on the optimal performance of equipment, a power surge can cripple operations. It may cost a significant amount of money to recover from any amount of downtime or hardware damage resulting from a surge.

Data center operators must understand how to effectively manage power surges to mitigate device deterioration and maximize productivity.

How to control surge propagation

Controlling surge propagation in a data center involves several key components that must be completed in the design and consultancy phase of the build, and carried out by certified electrical engineers.

1. Bonding networks:

Being well informed of the advantages and disadvantages of different types of bonding networks by working closely with your certified lightning protection installer from the initial design and consultancy phases in order to gain a greater understanding of items such as star, ring, Mesh-BN, Mesh-IBN etc.

2. Recommendations:

Reviewing the standard recommendations that relate the bonding network type to the rating of each data center is a critical component of surge propagation. For this we can refer to the standards BSEN 50310, IEC 60364-5-54, IEC 60364-4-44, TIA 607C, ANSI/BICSI002 and IEC 61000-5.

3. Surge current distribution assessment:

Conducting a surge current distribution assessment to find out the vulnerable point of the system is a key component of controlling surge propagation in data centers.

To conduct this assessment, the following information is required:

  • How many metal underground paths are available to the remote earth. For example, water and gas piping, outside neutral connection in TN system, and so on;
  • The location of the underground pop-up points to the main earthing terminals is crucial;
  • The type of underground earth electrode (simple loop or mesh);
  • The type of air termination network (isolated or non-isolated).

4. Backbone networks:

If we choose a certain type of backbone network, it is essential to ensure that all requirements stated in the standard are met for the desired purpose. For example, if we have chosen to have a three-dimensional mesh as specified in IEC 62305-4 in order to get the shielding effectiveness points, the size of the mesh needs to be less than 5x5m.

But if, for any reason, we must use a larger size of the three-dimensional mesh — for example, 10x10m — we need to evaluate whether it could enhance the above-ground earthing backbone adequately to extend the common bonding network (CBN) to provide an effective common impedance network, which could eliminate the use of separated containment backbones between different zones of the data hall.

If Mesh-BN has been chosen to be used as a backbone for IT equipment, the following must be taken into account:

  • We must be aware of alternatives that are available to augment the Common Bonding Network (CBN). This issue relates to the type of structure that is utilised, which could be columns comprised of rebars embedded in the concrete, or metal structures mounted on a concrete pad;
  • If the Mesh-BN system is selected as the system to install, the way the design of the air termination network on the roof must be taken into consideration, especially if there is a need to consider the internal down conductor. Internal down conductors are usually required for either decreasing the separation distance or in the case of restrictions on installing an appropriate mesh network that can split the lightning current into sufficient branches.

5. Lightning protection zones (LPZs):

Identifying different LPZs and finding out if the bonding backbone is adequate is challenging. It is essential to consider operational restrictions in this instance.

6. Combination bonding networks:

Generally, in big data centers, there could be a variety or combination of bonding networks due to the type of equipment and zones within the building. For example, mesh bonding for a data hall or star configuration for other equipment areas. This is because there are different expectations for various bonding networks. In data halls, in addition to the requirements for safety measures, we must control surge propagation and create a clean common impedance network.

Data Center Surge Protection

An essential but complex guide to lightning surge protection

Protecting data centers from lightning strikes is no easy task.

There are regularly updated documents for guidance, but nothing beats the expertise of an experienced professional to design and specify a protection system to ensure the safety of the building and everything in it, including personnel.

  1. The protection of personnel
  1. The protection of the power supply lines and maintenance of the energy supply
  1. The protection of data processing and storage
  1. The protection of the buildings

Protection of power supply lines and maintenance of energy supply:

Continuity of power in a data center is paramount. Data centers consume huge amounts of energy, not just to run the IT systems, but also to cool equipment. The data centers of large companies are consuming ever-increasing amounts of power, on average 32 megawatts, which is roughly the equivalent of a town of 25,000 inhabitants.

In general, data centers are required to have high systems availability with a maximum of four minutes of downtime per year, which can only be achieved with redundancy of power supply from the energy distributor. To reduce the risk of power failure they usually have two medium-voltage sources, one of which serves as a backup. A third source, in the form of generators, is often found on site along with an uninterruptable power supply to ensure power supply maintenance even in the event of a fault. UPS also serves to safeguard the quality of electrical energy.

All of these power sources provide a route by which the damaging power of lightning can travel. Most of the damage caused by lightning strikes affects electrical and electronic components, via induced over-voltages on the lines entering the building. Metallic pipes (water, gas, etc.) can also introduce surges, while the lack of equipotentiality between the various services or between the various earth connections, can cause issues when the electric earth and the so-called “clean” computing earth are separated.

The installation of Type 1+2 surge protective devices can protect incoming power lines and sensitive circuits when lightning strikes, due to their low residual overvoltage, however the earthing of the metal pipes that go into the building will be necessary in order to create an equipotential system.

Type 2 surge arresters are also required for the protection of computer systems, inverters and sensitive equipment. These surge arresters must be installed in the various electrical cabinets present on site.

Recent standards indicate that a conductor beyond 10 m in length, is no longer protected by a single surge arrester. In practice this is a maximum and may be much less depending on the configurations encountered.

The internal protection of a data center must be carried out in accordance with the concept of lightning protection zones, LPZ 0A through to zone LPZ 3 as defined in IEC 62305-4. The lightning protection zone LPZ 0A is the zone where a direct lightning strike is possible through to the zone LPZ 3, which is where terminal equipment is located and where the residual overvoltage must be kept low for this equipment to remain safe. Various surge arresters should be installed to prevent the energy from a lightning strike from cascading through the electrical network.

Protection of data stored and processed in the data center:

Data Centers are vulnerable to physical and cyber attacks. They are protected by anti-intrusion systems (cameras, presence detectors …) and sophisticated surveillance that must also be protected against lightning and surges. These systems are mostly located outside the buildings and because data center sites are often very extensive, their protection is complicated.

The communication of data from outside to inside is mainly made through fiber optic cable. This type of bond is immune to overvoltage, however, there are wired connections via multi-paired data cables of the Telecom type. These types of conductive connections are particularly sensitive to the indirect effects of lightning and to surges and should be protected by Type 2 surge arresters.

Coaxial cable connections should be protected too, in accordance with the types of frequency signals, impedance, voltage and connector types used. Monitoring equipment, thermal cameras, identity control systems, security locks, fire detection and intrusion detection systems should also be protected. Grounding kits can be used to reduce overvoltage from all coaxial cables such as outdoor antennas and outdoor surveillance cameras. Type 2 surge arresters should be used for safety-critical equipment, which is often connected in multi-core cables.

Protection of data center buildings:

High points, such as communication antennas or the chimneys of generating sets, have a high probability of being struck by lightning. In such an event the lightning current will flow to earth via any conductive elements, such as concrete reinforcement irons, metal structures or metal cladding. To protect against lightning, special attention must be paid to connect these high points to the ground by external conductors.

Without protection measures, persons within a radius of 3 m around a down conductor at ground level are in danger. This danger zone is much greater than 3 m at height, especially when one is close to the point of impact, on the roof for example.

The protection of personnel may be secured by the following means:

  • Procedures to prevent access to roofs and high points during a thunderstorm,
  • Thunderstorm detection system, which isolates the electrical network by switching from the grid supply to a generating set on site. (Examples of this can be found in some airports, hospitals and radio broadcasting sites.)

If no external lightning protection is installed, lightning currents will flow randomly, by any conductive element, through the building causing possible injury to personnel and damage to equipment.

The installation of a lightning protection system as a mesh cage system with shock points or using early streamer air terminal is more than advisable. This must provide a protection radius that covers the entire surface of the building as well as other sensitive zones or surrounding buildings such as generators, cooling units, or ancillary buildings necessary for the proper functioning of the center.

Splitting the lightning current through multiple down conductors between high points (mesh circuit, active or passive lightning rods) and earthing system is good. This quickly grounds the current and reduces the necessary separation distance. A good spread of the lightning current through multiple conductors will reduce the induction effects of the conductors inside the building. This will reduce the induced overvoltage through the wiring of the building and lower the impact on surge arresters, prolonging their life.

The distance between equipment connected to ground on the roof and the lightning conductors is an important consideration. The standard IEC 62305-1 explains how to calculate this separation distance. If they are too close to each other, less than the separation distance, they must be bonded and a Type 1 surge arresters must be installed on all lines that supply power to this rooftop equipment. If, however, the distance is large, then no bonding is required and Type 2 surge arresters are required and sufficient.

A low impedance grounding system is the best solution for human safety and for reduced wear of surge arresters installed on the site.

The design of low impedance grounding requires measurements of soil resistivity. This is a critical factor in the design of the grounding system and the earthing efficiency can be used to ensure the dimensions of the surge arresters are tailored to maximize safety.

The concept of lightning protection zones (LPZs):

Surge protective devices (SPDs) are classified into 3 types according to their test class as defined by IEC 61643-11 and their destination, i.e. the transition between two lightning protection zones.

Type 1: These are the “equipotential bonding” surge arresters, which are placed at the head of the electrical installations and are indispensable when external lightning protection is installed. They are tested with a 10/350μs type test wave. They allow the transition between an area LPZ 0A or 0B to LPZ 1.

Type 2: They are found throughout the installation, in all the division or sub division electrical boards, to protect the equipment. They are tested with an 8/20μs type test wave. They allow the transition between an areas LPZ 1 to LPZ 2.

Type 3: They are intended for so-called terminal protection, closest to sensitive equipment and cannot be effectively used alone. They are tested with a combined test wave of type 1,2/50μs – 8/20μs. They allow the transition between areas LPZ 2 to LPZ 3.

Surge Protection for Data Centers

Selecting surge protection for data centers

Today’s increased reliance on very sensitive electronics makes surge protection an important topic for Data Centers.

Given the central function now played by data centers in our present everyday life, their ability to remain operational at all times is more critical than ever. This is why Surge Protections are present at each power distribution level around the facility to prevent both operational downtime and data losses.

Recommended SPD for data centers

SPD for Data Centers

Internal lightning protection measures offer comprehensive protection of the electrical and electronic systems during lightning strikes and switching operations.

The lightning equipotential bonding is designed for all conductive systems running from the outside into the building.

3 stages for full surge protection

An effective surge protection concept has three protection stages. Stage by stage, the penetrating energy is broken down to a safe degree, so that terminal equipment is secure.

The best protective effect is achieved when all protection stages are optimally harmonized. Crucial here is that the arresters of the individual stages are energy-coordinated as per DIN VDE 0100-534.

Stage 1

Type 1 lightning current or combined arrester

at the point where conductors enter the building.

Stage 2

Type 2 surge arrester

in the sub-distribution board

Stage 3

Type 3 surge arrester

directly on the terminal device or socket outlet

Surge Arrester for Data Centers

The evolution of mobile devices and the need to access data from anywhere via all types of media places a high demand on modern data centers and their robust infrastructure to handle increasing customer usage.

Ensure unparalleled reliability and availability of your mission-critical infrastructure with LSP Surge Protective Devices, a protection technology proven in data centers of major IT, telecommunication, and banking companies worldwide for more than 10 years. In today’s world, data centers are the critical information processing nodes that keep our highly connected business and personal lives moving. Preventing downtime periods is crucial to IT infrastructure operators.

Two of the most important aspects of data center management are reliability and efficiency, data center managers should be supported with a comprehensive product portfolio featuring advanced AC, DC, and Data Line technologies to Protect today’s and tomorrow’s data centers.

One of the key failure sources at data centers is voltage transients. The critical functions of data centers must be safeguarded from power surges caused by unreliable “dirty” power off the grid or by direct and indirect lightning strikes. Transient power surges generated within data centers by motors, generators and other electrical equipment are also a major concern and source of equipment damage and revenue loss. Data center operators understand that very frequent overvoltage events and inadequate protection of mission-critical equipment such as control electronics, HVAC systems, power generation and distribution, lead to major system failures and downtime.

Surge protective devices (SPDs) are installed between the feed of incoming power and the equipment that they are protecting. Each surge protector work by continually monitoring the voltage of incoming electricity feed, and when they detect a surge in electricity, self-sacrifice, by clamping down on the voltage line coming in and diverting the power surge to ensure seamless operability.

Switchgear, flywheels and PDUs are commonly targeted when developing a surge protection site plan within data centers.

Solution The significant financial losses caused by overvoltage events can be minimized by using appropriate industrial surge protection solutions featuring LSP Surge Protective Devices (SPDs).

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Reliability in surge protection!

LSP’s reliable surge protection devices (SPDs) are designed to meet the protection needs of installations against lightning and surges. Contact our Experts!

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