As data center construction continues to mount due to increasing demand from the Internet of Things (IoT), data center architecture is evolving. For example, data centers are becoming smaller, thanks to increased efficiencies within each data rack resulting in the cost of the building itself superseding the cost of the racks and internal components. This shift in priority for data center managers has had a profound effect on protecting these structures, especially fire detection and fire suppression.
The market for fire detection equipment in data centers is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.4 percent from 2017 to 2022, reaching $117.4 million in 2022. Fire suppression equipment in data centers is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 4.6 percent from 2017 to 2022, reaching $61.6 million in 2022.
Detection technology evolving
Typically, data centers were being protected with a traditional spot detector, such as multi-sensor detectors or optical detectors, and a gaseous suppression system over the area containing the racks. For fire detection, there has been a shift to using more air-sampling smoke detection (ASD) within data centers, because of their ability to detect the threat of a fire much faster than traditional spot detectors. The use of ASD leads to early detection, allowing operators to either shut down overheating equipment or use portable extinguishers, rather than relying on damaging water or other suppression technology that can increase costs. Due to the shift toward early-detection sensors, ASD is forecasted to be the fastest-growing detector type through 2022, with a CAGR of 7.8 percent globally from 2017 to 2022.
Reducing losses by combining technologies
While ASD has changed how data centers detect a fire, suppression technology is also changing.
Since the value of racks, servers and other equipment within data centers has been steadily declining, the focus of data center managers has shifted from racks and equipment, toward protecting the structural integrity of the building itself. Thanks to server redundancy, there are fewer ramifications to the business continuity of companies using these servers, if a data center were to be shut down due to a fire.
Considering all these factors, data center managers have opted to purchase pre-action wet sprinklers to cover the area containing racks, because they are a much less expensive solution. While it might damage equipment with water, it will still maintain the structural integrity of the data center. By coupling ASDs and pre-action wet sprinklers in data centers, building managers are presented with an opportunity to prevent sprinklers from discharging, if the fire can be mitigated by other means, resulting in fewer losses and unnecessary downtime for the data center.
The rise of pre-engineered gaseous suppression systems
This shift to pre-action sprinkler systems within data centers now has gaseous system manufacturers pushing a new, less-expensive solution, so they can continue to compete within the data center sector. These pre-engineered gaseous solutions are built to cover individual racks (or multiple racks lined up together), to better address early detected fire threats. These systems complement pre-action sprinklers, because they can be discharged directly into the racks without doing any damage to the components. They can also be activated before the sprinkler systems discharge.
New business models for fire equipment vendors
The evolution of data centers has slowed the growth of fire equipment for this sector, but the market outlook remains positive, due to the growing numbers of smaller data centers that require smaller overall systems. The positive market outlook is also supported by the shift from gaseous-suppression systems to pre-action sprinklers and the use of ASD, which requires fewer detectors throughout the area that needs protection.