Gallery: How Corrosion, Algae And Bacteria Can Ruin A Data Centre

Water cooling is often used for heat management in data centres, but that creates its own challenges. Corrosion, algae, bacteria and fungus can damage those cooling systems. Beware the prolific biofilm slime formers!

Lifehacker’s coverage of Data Center World 2014 is presented by the Microsoft Cloud, providing flexible enterprise cloud solutions for business.

During a presentation at Data Center World 2014 in Las Vegas, Fremont director of sales Rob Herbon highlighted some of the issues that can arise if water used in cooling systems isn’t fully treated to remove bacteria, algae, fungus and other lifeforms, and shared these images of damaged equipment encountered by the company.

Active corrosion on a chiller exchanger head.

While corrosion might seem like an obvious risk, Herbon said other areas could be more problematic. “We see more problems in the holding systems for chilled water loops — that tends to be the more critical issue.”

Corrosion on a chiller tube sheet.

Films that form in water can creates “mats” which in turn block the flow in cooling systems.

A mat of organic matter in a TES tank.

Avoiding these problems requires planning in advance and ongoing maintenance. “Get the water out if you’re not using a facility,” Herbon advised. “Keeping the system clean is vital.”

Corrosion can also create other byproducts (see the bottom left of the picture).

In some instances, untreated water can cause major dramas. “Bacteria can grow so fast it causes the cooling tower to fall over,” Herbon said.

There are also health risks for staff: if legionella or other bacteria develop in water systems, the results can be fatal.

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