December 2016 Maintenance

MSI will have an extended downtime period on December 7, 2016. Aside from our usual system maintenance, MSI will be working with a contractor to perform room integrity tests as part of an upgrade to the fire suppression system in our main data center, room B40. The testing will begin at 6am and will require a complete shutdown of all IT equipment in our data center in B40. Most systems should be able to return to service by 5pm. Since all filesystems will be unavailable for much of the day on 7 December, MSI suggests you stage time-critical data as necessary to external systems.

Additional background and details about the B40 work are below.

  • The entire Walter Library is on a single fire alarm zone. This means that whenever there is a fire alarm triggered anywhere in the building, the automated systems in the building shut down all air handling equipment in the building. This includes the B40 room’s air handling units. In addition, the MSI data center’s fire suppression system is via a “wet-pipe” sprinkler system. This is a system that is continually under water pressure: should a sprinkler head fail or be accidentally damaged, the IT equipment in the room could be severely damaged by water.
  • To remedy these two issues, MSI has been working with Facilities to isolate the B40 room from the fire alarm system and to provide a chemical agent fire suppression system and a “dry-pipe” sprinkler system. Once these changes are implemented, the Walter Library’s fire alarm system will be zoned and MSI’s B40 air handlers will be separately administered from the main zone. A fire alarm event elsewhere in the building will then no longer result in a loss of air cooling for MSI’s data center.
  • The chemical fire suppression attempts to extinguish fires via a gaseous agent displacing oxygen. The chemical agent does not harm IT equipment and is not harmful to humans. Should the chemical agent fail to extinguish the fire, a secondary system will fill the “dry-pipe” sprinkler system with water and will activate once the sprinkler heads activate.
  • In order to properly size the chemical fire suppression, the contractors need to determine the integrity of the room with respect to air leakage. These tests require that all air handlers be shut down. To perform this test, MSI will need to shut down all IT equipment in the room during these tests. This is the reason for the extended maintenance period on December 7.

We have worked closely with Facilities over the past several months to develop this plan and appreciate the responsiveness of the staff in Facilities to implement the necessary changes. We acknowledge that the construction can lead to disruptions in our services. But as several of the extended outages that MSI has experience over the past two years have been due to facilities issues related to fire alarms and IT equipment overheating, we believe that these changes are critical and will make the risk associated with facilities failures extremely low and greatly reduce the number of unexpected downtime events.

Systems status is always available on our Status page

If you have any questions, please email