Aussie tech company keeps its cool in the face of noisy server room

500 cooling fans create 85 decibel ruckus

Stuck with a meeting space located right next door to a server room boasting 500 noisy cooling fans, the Andrew Corporation needed to be innovative when it came to finding the best soundproofing solution.

And these are pretty powerful, high-speed servers used to support mobile phone location technology developed at the Andrew Corporation's R&D facility in Wollongong.

The servers are primarily used to design, develop, deploy and support wireless location systems.

In fact, the systems are used by telecommunications companies to pinpoint mobile phones geographically and to inform appropriate parties such as emergency services when required.

The Andrew Corporation chose to showcase the massive array of machines to those in the adjacent meeting room, which is used for training and client briefings.

But much of the 85 decibel (dB) ruckus put out by the 500 cooling fans built into the front row of racks, went around the glass barrier making normal conversation very difficult.

In need of smart soundproofing measures, the company called in Pyrotek's Soundguard division.

Soundguard consultant, Mariio Taddeo, said many of the obvious approaches usually available cound't be used.

"We obviously couldn't cover the glass with soundproofing; although we did seal gaps around the complete periphery of the glass partition wall and doors," Taddeo said.

"We also provided an acoustic barrier using 4 kilogram per square metre Wavebar Quadzero in the false ceiling.

"But we couldn't do the same with the false floor, not only because the cabling there had to remain readily accessible, but also because cooling air for the server room had to pass unhindered through this void."

Maintaining cooling is critical in machine testing with strict criteria set by government including the Federal Communications Commission in the US, where many of the systems worldwide have so far been deployed.

This means 99.999% uptime in the demanding process of pinpointing every 911 or 000 caller for the emergency operator.

"Instead, to prevent the noise finding a path to the meeting room via this space, we lined the underside of the 55 removable 400 x 400 mm tiles that make up the false floor with a 25mm thick layer of Sorberfoam PU," Taddeo said.

"We could do more, but our approach is to take on the problem in stages to avoid costly over-designing."

The server noise now getting through to the interview room has been measured at 53 dB, down 12 decibels from the previous 65 dB measured beforehand.

On an illustrative decibel scale for the layperson, 52 dB is labelled the "quiet restaurant" level.

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