Shark Tank: The forecast is warmer, with a chance of floods

This computer room's air conditioning system is designed to provide maximum protection for the servers inside. At least that's the idea, says a pilot fish who works for the city government.

"The air conditioning is independent of the main building AC," fish says. "The room has independent power for the pair of ACs, and they're set so that one comes on if the other one fails or the temperature gets too high, even if the main one is still running. This would seem to be excellent protection.

"However, they've both failed to operate properly four times in the past year -- including cooking the room at 130 degrees last time."

So another temperature sensor is added to the room, this one attached to an alarm that goes off at 78 degrees.

One day, staffers notice that the room feels hot. Fish checks the AC. The main unit shows 74 degrees. The wall sensor shows 75. Since the room temperature is supposed to be in the mid-60s, fish knows something is malfunctioning again. He calls the maintenance department, whose repair people arrive promptly and get to work.

They're still working two hours later when the webmaster stops in to ask fish when the crew will be done working around the server racks so he can load some software. No problem, says fish; they're just working on the AC, so you should be able to do it now.

"No way," the webmaster tells fish. "They've got the raised floor up, and I can't get beyond the vacuum they're using to suck up the water."

Water? Fish sprints to the computer room to find water running steadily out from the AC unit. It already covers half the room.

He soon learns why. "The condensation line pump was on the same power circuit as the AC unit," says fish. "So when they shut one off, they shut the other off, and water was backing up into the room."

Since all power lines and connections running along the floor are now threatened by the water, everything has to be shut down.

That includes the servers for a special network used by the public works department. "We notified them that everything is going down, and the deputy director came down," fish says. "We showed him the water flowing in and he got on the phone with his consultant.

"Standing next to the hole in the floor, with water running in and a shop vacuum pulling water up, he turned to me to ask, 'When do you think it will be back up?'

"I swallowed the first replies that occurred to me and finally managed to say that until they stop the water coming in, I couldn't say.

"Next up on the list? Under-floor water sensors, holes drilled in the floor to vent water to the parking level, and line pumps on a different power circuit than the ACs themselves.

"Someday maybe I'll do some computer-related work."

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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