ISC   Information Support Concepts, Inc
A Certified Woman Owned Business Enterprise (WBE)

Issue 30

Publisher:  Jack Burlin                                Editor:  Patti Hammonds

December 3, 2007

Your success story            Monthly featured product            Kevinisms            Trivia         

Articles of Interest:  Whiskers in the Data Center                      The 50 Cent Watch

Back to ISC Main Page

Your Success Story


            I just wanted to drop you a quick note to let you know we used the foam inserts you recommended for our rack mount drawers and they worked GREAT!  The inserts were perfectly sized for our shallow 2U rack-mount drawers and the tear-out feature allowed us to easily create a custom shaped bed for a 17" free standing LCD flat screen monitor.  The drawer itself is installed in a small portable video rack used for field work and will on occasion need to be shipped overseas.  Normally Iíd be packaging and shipping the monitor separately from the video rack itself but not now.  Iím confident that your FI-2 foam insert will protect it perfectly on any trip it has to make.  Before talking to you we had also briefly considered buying an ďoff the shelf" foam sheet and attempting to cut it into a suitable shape. Thankfully that hassle has been neatly avoided.  Thanks again for your help with this!

     James Rivera
     Staff Engineer
     Remote Systems Engineering Ė Video Inspections


Monthly Featured Product



USB Powered Light with
120V Plug Adapter


(Regularly $22.00)



        USB Powered Light
in operation


8U 19" Low Profile Server
Rack Cabinet


(Regular Price $649.00)



1U 17" Rackmount LCD, Keyboard, and Touchpad


(Regular Price $2066.50)



Information Support Concepts (ISC) has discontinued the monthly product special. Since we are now running weekly specials with much deeper discounts, it made sense for the monthly special to be replaced.  We will now have a featured product each month, and direct our customers back to the weekly special for discounted items.

To help us bridge the gap as we move forward, and to provide emphasis for the weekly special, this month's featured product is a review of what you missed in November.  So here are the items that were the weekly special throughout the month of November.  You can click on this link to see the current weekly product special! 

This is a special page on our main website showing that week's special.  Quantities are limited, so when the special sells out, they will no longer be available.

You never know what is going to be on special, so it will be well worth it for bargain hunters to check out our site every week.  New items will appear each Wednesday, so you don't want to wait as you might miss out on some spectacular deals.

As always, ISC personnel are ready to answer your questions, and can confirm if the weekly special will work for your specific application. If you have a question, just call us at 800-458-6255.


Whiskers In The Data Center
What You Need To Know About Zinc Whiskers

July 27, 2007 ē Vol.29 Issue 30

Whiskersótheyíre supposed to grow on cats and menís faces. Unfortunately, they also grow in the data center where, when left unchecked, they can wreak havoc with sensitive electronics.

First identified in the late 1940s by Bell Labs, these tiny, hair-like filaments grow out of zinc-electroplated surfaces (galvanized) commonly found in data centersí physical infrastructure, with the most common culprit being wood or composite floor tiles with flat metal sheeted undersides. Zinc electroplating is still in use today and may very well end up in the data center, especially in equipment manufactured overseas, particularly in China.  However, the electroplating process is different todayóa rolled processóthat is believed to reduce whiskering.

According to Jay Brusse, who studies metal whisker formation on metal surfaces for NASA, zinc whiskers can remain dormant for years and then suddenly become active, growing as much as 1mm each year. While that may not sound like a huge problem, zinc whisker contamination can result in intermittent and outright failure of electrical circuitry. IBM ( has long identified zinc whiskers as the cause for operational problems in its AS/400 Physical Planning Reference handbook.

Powerful Stubble

Despite their minuscule size, zinc whiskers are metal and, therefore, conduct electricity. Easily dislodged and dispersed into the air when disturbed by normal actions, such as moving floor tiles or equipment, these tiny particles are easily drawn into equipment that has powerful cooling fans.

When airborne zinc whiskers settle on integrated microcircuit boards, the most likely result is an intermittent short, a temporary variance in voltage or signal disturbance. In severe contamination situations, catastrophic equipment failure can occur.

Failures due to zinc whiskers are difficult to identify. During the short, the micron-thin zinc particles are often vaporized by the current. Also due to their nearly microscopic size, when the affected equipment is opened or moved for repair, the offending whisker can easily become dislodged, leaving no trace of the problem. As more professionals become aware of the threat from zinc whiskers, they are taking a closer look at their data center environments.

Understanding what to look for is critical when assessing the data center for zinc whisker risk. Data Clean (, a company that offers zinc whisker remediation services, advises to first check to see if there are any flat-bottomed access panels that are wood-core, composite-core, or concrete-core, as well as ferrous metal pedestals and stringers. Dimpled-bottomed panels and aluminum pedestals and stringers are not at risk. Next, examine the finish of any exposed metal. If the metal is a uniform dull gray with a slightly shiny finish, it could be at risk for zinc whiskers. If the surface is a mottled finish, the zinc plating was applied using the hot-dip galvanization process, and there is no risk of zinc whisker formation, even on flat-bottomed access panels.

If there is sufficient evidence of risk, there are a number of methods to see if zinc whiskers are actively forming on a surface. The quickest method is to visually inspect the surface from the side using a flashlight. Whiskers range in size from 1 to 10mm and appear as shiny hairs protruding from the metalís surface. It is important to be cautious when handling possibly contaminated floor tiles, as whiskers can easily break off.

Even if whiskers arenít visibly apparent, that doesnít mean they arenít there. If a zinc whisker contamination is suspected, another method that can easily be performed by data center personnel is wiping a number of surfaces throughout the data center with a specialized wet wipe. The wipe is then sealed in a plastic bag and examined by a professional environmental lab which will then test the wipe for zinc. If the lab determines the presence of zinc on the wipe, the next step would be to turn to a company offering professional zinc remediation services, such as Data Clean or Sterile Environment Technologies (, which routinely turn to Scanning Electron Microscopy examinations prior to instituting remediation measures.


When zinc whisker contamination has been confirmed and professional services have been engaged, there will be a lot of unplanned activity occurring in the data center. It is essential to work closely with remediation service personnel in order to ensure success. Although professional zinc whisker remediation is an expensive undertaking, compared to the downtime and instability within the data center due to contamination, itís well worth the cost.

Be prepared to power down the room and possibly the entire data center, as the cooling system will need to be shut down to reduce airflow. If equipment cannot be removed, it should be tented and sealed with plastic sheeting. Affected access panels, pedestals, and stringers will need to be carefully removed and sealed into individual plastic bags prior to removal from the premises. Using HEPA vacuums and wet wipes, clean all surfaces, including the plenum, remaining floor areas, walls, ceilings, and any equipment left in the room prior to installing new, uncontaminated infrastructure.


There are no environmental controls such as temperature and humidity to reduce or eliminate the growth of zinc whiskers on zinc-plated metals. Due to their size, normal dust filters in cooling systems fail to remove whiskers from the air. HP ( has been working on an electrostatic precipitator that would remove airborne zinc particles in the cooling systems using an electrostatic charge. The Uptime Institute recommends replacing all tiles capable of producing zinc whiskers and cleaning the affected room.

by Sandra Kay Miller

Don't put your hardware in danger!
Call the Rackmount Ranger!


A Kevinism is a funny or intriguing statement or idea from our Vice President of Sales, Kevin Hunt.  Kevin is a big fan of Sandra Bullock, Pizza Inn black olive pizza, The Washington Redskins, and Dr. Pepper (not necessarily in that order).  He is not a big fan of Chinese food, seafood, or other types of "dead" stuff.

Recently, I have come under fire for some of the articles in this column.  Kevin's complaint is that I am not quoting him accurately or I am distorting the facts.  He has threatened to take over the job of writing this column!  However, he recognizes that if he took such a step, no one would ever want to read it.

Fortunately, I have Robin to back me up.  My contention is that I only report on what happens and do not make Kevin's claims any more far fetched than they already are.  I don't need to.  Robin and I have retaliated by proposing to get a small tape recorder so when Kevin says something and later denies it, we will have proof.  Robin is much more enthusiastic about this idea than I am.  My goal is vindication, while hers is behavior modification (Kevin's that is).

A good example is Kevin's complaint about the November Kevinism.  His actual words were that the article was a "sordid" distortion of the truth.

I can assure you, there was nothing sordid about the column, but it did provide an opportunity to discuss Kevin's incorrect  use of words again.

Here is what the dictionary says:


      Main Entry:


                sor' - dəd


                Latin sordidus, from sordes dirt - more at swart

      Date:  1606


1: marked by baseness or grossness : vile <sordid motives>
2 a: dirty, filthy b: wretched, squalid
: meanly avaricious : covetous
: of a dull or muddy color

Having merely reported the truth, the column would stand accusations of being libelous, fictitious, inaccurate, or any other logical (but erroneous) criticisms.  But accused of being sordid?  Never!


The ISC Newsletter
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Trivia Question

Q:  The last time this event occurred was 11/19/1999.  It won't happen again for more than 1100 years.  What is it?

All correct answers will be placed into a pool for a random drawing at the end of the month.  The winner will receive a free VT2 2U vented flanged panel,  plus free ground shipping. Send your answers to: Jack Burlin

See next month's newsletter for the winner and the correct answer.

Answer from November's Newsletter.

Q:   Where is this famous statue of a lion, and what is significant about its composition (what it is made from)?  Note:  This is in keeping with a common theme from last month's question.

A:  The statue is atop an artificial mound on the site of the battle of Waterloo.  It commemorates the wounding of William, the Prince of Orange during the battle.  The statue was cast of iron in nine pieces an assembled at the site.  There is an "urban legend" that it was made of melted down French cannons, but this is false, and more properly describes the statue of Achilles from the October trivia question.

The winner was Michael Kies.  Congratulations!




The 50 Cent Watch


     They say you can tell a fighter pilot by the size and complexity of his watch.  True to form, I had a watch that I bought as a senior in college.  This watch had a stop watch function, had markings on the dial to allow you to calculate speeds up to 600mph, and a few other nice features.  I wore this watch throughout my Air Force career, but it was a bit sensitive, and certain functions seemed to fail pretty regularly.  The last time the stop watch function failed, I decided to retire the watch rather than pay $100+ to have it fixed again.  Since I wasnít flying any longer, I did not really need the impressive watch any more. 

     At a garage sale in Stamford, CT I happened to see a watch that looked interesting.  It was a rectangular face and body, with a small set of hands in the center.  It was gold color with a white face.  Since I needed a watch, I purchased it for 50 cents, and put a new leather band on it.  It worked fine and looked pretty nice.  A couple of weeks later I was enroute to Islamabad. 

     As a Systems Manager for a large Aerospace company, I made frequent trips to visit the Pakistani Air Force and Army.  Most visits were to the capital in Islamabad, but I also got to visit Karachi and some other cities. 

     On this particular trip, I stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel in Rawalpindi.  Rawalpindi is the twin city of Islamabad, and was the capital of Pakistan before the government built all their offices and other buildings nearby, naming the new city Islamabad. 

     The trip was pretty successful, with visits to the Army Chief of Staff, the US Embassy, and a couple of other places.  In between appointments, I visited the various gift shops in the hotel.  One store in particular attracted my attention.  This store sold semi-precious stones and various carvings made from the stones.  I had my eye on some Lapis Lazuli and some Malachite. 

     As the time for my return to the US neared, I went down to see what might be within my price range.  There was a spectacular carving of a hippo in Lapis, but they wanted $400 for it.  There were raw pieces of Sodalite, Lapis, Malachite, Rhodonite, and a few other things.  I had gotten friendly with the man running the shop, and started to negotiate over what I wanted.  As we were talking he noticed my watch.

     I was making offers for various items, but he was fascinated by the watch.  He asked me how much I wanted for the watch.  I told him it was not really worth much, and that if I gave it to him, how would I tell time on my way back?  He persisted.  He wanted to know how much I would take for the watch.  I explained it only cost me 50 cents, and that it really was not worth trading for.  He insisted, "How much do you want for the watch?"

     Not wanting to take too much advantage of the situation, I finally said $50.  He said that was fine.  I could have $50 worth of stones in exchange for the watch.  This seemed like a great deal to me, so I got a few large pieces of different things.  Lapis, Malachite, Sodalite, and Rhodonite (see pictures below)  all got stowed safely in the luggage and made it back to Stamford with me.

     I am not sure what made this man so interested in my watch.  Maybe he was a better judge of its value than I was.  It seemed to me that watches were readily available in Pakistan, so I still canít figure out why he wanted it so badly.

     I felt I made out well, but then I started to wonder how much value I could have gotten for a fighter pilotís watch.  It should easily have been worth a $400 carved hippo.

 Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed this month's newsletter. 
Please direct your comments to Jack Burlin.




                Rhodonite (pink) crystals

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Information Support Concepts, Inc.

Mansfield, Texas
ISC   Information Support Concepts, Inc