Keeping its huge data center humming is vital at NASA Ames Research Center, where 4,000 scientists are working on aeronautics and biotechnology projects. When a new custom-built air conditioning system couldn't keep the research outfit's network equipment at the right temperature, it was the IT department's equivalent of a space mission gone wrong.Keeping its huge data center humming is vital at\u00a0NASA Ames Research Center, where 4,000 scientists are working on aeronautics and biotechnology projects. When a new custom-built air conditioning system couldn't keep the research outfit's network equipment at the right temperature, it was the IT department's equivalent of a space mission gone wrong."It failed miserably," says George Alger, assistant division chief of the applied information technologies division and IT services manager. He worried that the A\/C fluctuations threatened to disrupt or even damage the 50 racks of servers and switches housed in the Moffett Field, Calif., data center."The air conditioning should have maintained 68 degrees to 70 degrees in the room, but it didn't," Alger says about the custom-built system, which cost about $800,000.NASA Ames became aware of the high and low temperature spikes because two physical-security sensors from\u00a0NetBotz\u00a0continuously monitor the data center's environment.Positioned on the wall, the NetBotz sensors send e-mail and paging alerts about problems discovered in temperature, air flow and other conditions over NASA's LAN to a monitor dedicated to physical security that is manned 24-7.The NetBotz findings convinced the IT department it had to rip out the air conditioning system and start over this year."We scrubbed the entire design," Alger says. NASA Ames accepts the blame for the data center's AC problem, which it corrected through closer coordination between the IT department and various designers and contractors.The boxes can detect other data center threats, such as smoke, and can hear the sounds of uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) calling for attention.NASA Ames uses products from other vendors to monitor other factors, such as the presence of specific gaseous substances like hydrogen, which can be given off by some older UPS batteries. "Hydrogen concentrations coming from batteries can be explosive," Alger says.NASA Ames uses\u00a0Arrgh Manufacturing's hydrogen-gas sensor, which can be plugged into the NetBotz box.Although NetBotz can't accept all physical monitoring gear, it does work with RAE Systems sensors that measure dangerous gases as well as Liebert surge-protection and other equipment. Monitoring information and alerts - even standard SNMP traffic from routers and switches - can be sent to the NetBotz monitor.NetBotz also can work with many dry contact sensors, which can detect glass breaking and water or vibrations.This fall, NetBotz intends to add support for the IEEE standard 0-5v and 4-20MA sensor interfaces typically used in industrial and process automation equipment in water-treatment and chemical plants, and nuclear facilities to give information about flow rates and tank levels.Unwelcome visitorsNetBotz also helps watch for intruders who try to slip into restricted high-security areas.The NetBotz devices include an IP-based video camera and a motion sensor that continuously provides surveillance. NASA Ames is deploying about 20 NetBotz appliances for this purpose around doors to rooms that remain off-limits to unauthorized personnel. Al-together, NASA Ames has spent about $35,000 on its NetBotz deployment."We have restricted areas, and we've found contractors in these areas where they are not supposed to be," Alger says. Although these rooms typically have card-key access, intruders can gain entry by following someone who just gained entry to the room.NASA Ames provides security personnel with information about what individuals should be in certain locations at Moffett Field at particular times so if the NetBotz video camera shows suspicious activity, a guard can investigate.