Last year I visited a new build data center in Sussex to carry out a site survey ahead of a heat load test. We prefer to carry out a site survey to ensure the heat load we are providing is appropriate for the customer’s test and that there are no access or health and safety issues that could delay our delivery.

Security at the site was somewhat enhanced given the sensitivity of the customer’s business (financial services). Once I had gone through the usual signing in process, had my photograph taken and registered my fingerprints with the biometric door control system, I headed off to the data hall.

The first door was not a problem, as it was a standard door. The second was much more challenging; a glass tube about the size of the average person, with two sliding doors to prevent tailgating. The first door closed behind me. I pressed the button and did a thumb print impression to open the second door …. and, nothing. The door did not open. I tried several times but to no avail. So I thought I would retrace my steps by opening the first door and returning to security. I pressed the button and did the thumb print thing … again, nothing. So I was now stuck in a vertical glass coffin!

My search of the insides of the tube for some means of escape or raising the alarm was fruitless. There were no alarms or intercom! So I waited. And waited. And waited. I should mention that this was a ‘lights out site’, so foot fall around the building was very light. After about thirty minutes somebody did eventually did walk past and went to raise the alarm with security on my behalf.

The security card overrode the door lock, freeing me from my temporary imprisonment. I thought there must be something wrong with the tube, door lock or biometric controls. Imagine being told, rather bluntly ‘No mate, you’re too fat!’ He went on to explain that the air lock had an additional feature to prevent tailgating, a pressure pad on the floor that was set to detect if there was more than the weight of an average person in the tube. If I wanted access to the data hall I would have to use the double doors used as a goods entrance instead.

I should mention at the time I weighed 21 stone. The security guard was somewhat larger than me, so I have no idea how he managed to do his security patrols effectively, given there was no way he could have used the tube! I went about my work and left site without further incident. We subsequently delivered our floor standing 22kw heat load units, and the data hall successfully passed all tests.

On my way home, while sitting in traffic I thought about my day and decided that the whole experience had been rather humiliating. The next week I went on a diet and joined a gym. So far I have lost 3 stone and 12” of my waist. Never again will one of these security tubes get the better of me! So maybe data centers are good for your health.

Dave Wolfenden is the director and owner of HeatLoad (formerly known as Mafi Mushkila).