Maintenance Key to Maximizing Battery Life



Maintenance is the key to extending just about anything in life and data center UPS batteries are no exception.  When data center UPS batteries are neglected, what could be small and easily fixed problems, or completely preventable issues, grow and grow without notice until, one day, they become a problem.  Routine monitoring, coupled with appropriate maintenance are a combination that will not only help maximize uptime in your facility but can help prevent major disasters from happening.  How reliable your data center is depends on your UPS system, and how reliable that UPS system is depends on the quality of batteries and how well they have been maintained.  Without proper upkeep, a troublesome domino effect begins that will eventually become a major problem that would have likely been prevented with routine monitoring and upkeep.

Downtime is both frustrating and costly, with just seconds of downtime posing a major concern.  Data Center Knowledge points out why UPS battery maintenance should be made a priority, “Data center surveys have shown that anywhere between 65 percent to as high as 85 percent of unplanned downtime can be attributed to battery failure of some kind. This means your facility is almost certainly at the mercy of a room full of what basically remains 1800’s technology. It only takes a single unit failure within a string of lead acid batteries to make that entire string useless so it follows that even several strings of batteries need only have a few bad units scattered throughout it to render the entire emergency power system useless.”  The tricky part of data center battery upkeep is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach that will be successful.  Rather, each data center must assess the infrastructure in their specific data center, as well as demands and goals and develop a proper monitoring plan.  This can include automated monitoring with alarms but should not rely solely on it.  An effective plan will also include routine, visual battery inspections in person to ensure that you have the best knowledge with which to make decisions.  When figuring out what should be concerning and incite action with a battery, the individual battery and specific manufacturer instructions must be factored in.  Data Center Knowledge elaborates on this concept, “It would be much simpler if every battery had a one simple set of parameters however the reality is that these parameters vary from battery manufacturer and battery model. There are many considerations, from simple float voltage to the temperature compensated settings of the rectifier being used. The alarms can signal issues with string voltage, unit voltage, impedance, ambient temperature, unit temperature, ripple and record discharge. These alarm limits have different priorities, ranging from lower priority maintenance pointers to more immediate critical issues. So which are the important ones? All of them. If unsure, talk to the battery manufacturer about what limits to set alarms to.”  Through the implementation of an effective monitoring system, as well as proper routine maintenance, the life of a UPS battery in a data center can be dramatically extended, saving money and protecting a data center from downtime.

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Can a Data Center Operate With No UPS or Generator?

Advanced PDU


When we discuss data centers it seems that a conversation about UPS (uninterruptible power supply) and generators go hand in hand.  Redundant power with a reliable UPS battery or backup generator have long been the standard approach to ensuring a facility  can maximize uptime and that a mission critical facility can fulfill the demand placed on it.  As often happens with data centers, many facility managers are keeping an eye on larger locations from companies like Google or Yahoo, ready to take cues from what works on such a large scale and implement them to better improve energy efficiency and make technological advancements.  Yahoo has moved towards centers that do not use such traditional protection but, rather, a network of facilities that can absorb the load should an outage occur.

This shift toward eliminating the use of Uninterruptible Power Supply and backup generators is unprecedented and may significantly improve energy efficiency if it is able to be successfully implemented.   Additionally, it will reduce the need for routine UPS maintenance or the use of UPS batteries.  Data Center Knowledge explains how a company like Yahoo is making forward-thinking changes to improve efficiency, “But Yahoo is considering going without UPS and generators for some future data center projects. It’s not alone in advocating design choices that represent a huge departure from current practice. A number of data center designers are urging clients to consider limiting UPS support to loads that are genuinely critical. Scott Noteboom, the head of data center operations at Yahoo, said in his keynote at last month’s 7×24 Exchange conference that the Internet portal is exploring scenarios in which it would build data centers without generators or UPS, and use its network to route around any power outages that occur at those facilities. That’s a strategy that only the largest data center providers can contemplate, as it requires multiple data centers in major network capacity. Google has pursued a similar strategy during maintenance on some of its data centers, shifting capacity to other facilities… Data center designer KC Mares of Megawatt Consulting says he urges customers to take a hard look at which IT functions are truly “always on” essential, and which systems can afford interruptions.”  While this may not be a realistic approach for smaller operations without a massive network, perhaps, some locations can dramatically reduce the usage of a UPS and backup generator.  Data Center Knowledge also points out that if complete elimination is not an option, many pioneers in the industry are shifting towards a making a decrease as well as why making this shift may have a significant upfront cost but actually will more than pay for itself over time, “Yahoo plans to invest at least $500 million in further expanding its data center infrastructure and shifting its operations to newer, highly-efficient infrastructure. The company is also preparing a new data center design for a series of next-generation facilities it plans to build in 2012 and beyond, in which much of the infrastructure will operate with minimal UPS and generator support. “We are in essence rewiring the entire infrastructure of Yahoo,” said Scott Noteboom, the head of data center operations at Yahoo. “We’ve gained approval to invest half a billion dollars to build new data centers. We’ll be migrating the entire footprint of Yahoo to these more efficient facilities”… “All this efficiency is cool,” said Noteboom, who announced the expansion Thursday at the DataCenterDynamics New York conference. “But we’re saving our company $200 million a year. At our scale, these (new data centers) have a three-year payback.”  What is being shown clearly is that more and more facilities are able to make a shift towards a reduced or completely eliminated use of UPS and generators.

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Why Data Centers Should Be Using Colored PDUs


In a world where technology moves at a lightning pace and everything is becoming more and more advanced, sometimes, it is best to get back to basics.  Color coding could not possibly sound more “old school” or basic but that does not mean it isn’t an invaluable tool.  Downtime is the sworn enemy of every data center because it is frustrating and costly but, unfortunately, many data centers do experience downtime each year.  While focusing on improving things like uninterruptible power supply will help prevent downtime the fact of the matter is that a huge percentage of downtime is the result of human error.  Preventable human error.  By color coding your PDU you can help prevent human error and maximize uptime for the benefit of your data center and business.

Start by using separate colors to identify your A and B power feeds.  By doing this it makes working on your power supplies and in your racks easier not only for you but for technicians as well.  It will be a significant time saver by eliminating confusion and will also help prevent needless outages that lead to downtime.  In addition to clearly defining which power supply is which through color coding, you can also distinguish voltages.    For those looking to further optimize the use of color, facilities can even opt to “white out” their server racks and distribution cabinets because white is a reflective color and by using all white it will reduce a data center’s lighting needs dramatically. Raritan offers a variety of color coded products to make the switch as easy as possible.

How big of a difference will color coding really make?  Just imagine giving instructions to a technician and telling them to look for the red cord in the rack.  It is that simple.  No longer will they need to search and cross their fingers that they have selected the correct cord.  Only to realize that – oops – it actually was the wrong cord and caused an unexpected outage.  Color coding eliminates the guessing game which may not sound by much but Datacenter Knowledge points out just how significant it really is, “More than 90% of the data center operators responding to a recent survey reported that their data center had at least one unplanned outage in the past two years (Ponemon Institute)…The overwhelming majority of outages were attributed to human error.”  By color coding your PDU, routine maintenance and monitoring is no longer daunting and maintaining uptime is a much easier undertaking which is something every data center can appreciate.


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The Importance of Data Center Transparency


Many businesses need data center space but do not have the resources or desire to run an entire facility themselves.  These colocation customers rent space from data centers with managers and maintenance capabilities in place. With this service there is an expectation of security, proper cooling, efficiency, maintenance of uptime and so much more.  These things are certainly written into a contract but – are they really happening.  In an era of so much transparency, many customers want to know if their colocation facility is truly providing all of the services they say they are.  It can be difficult for customers to truly grasp or quantify what is happening if there is no proof or transparency.  But, can colocation facilities actually provide that transparency for customers and, if so, what does that look like?

Shy of physically being in the data center it can be tricky for colocation customers to have a good grasp on what is actually happening on site.  But, this is beginning to change with the advent of increased monitoring that is smart and intuitive and capable of being remotely accessed.  This monitoring not only tracks what is happening but can put the information it collects into charts and graphs that help give customers a clear picture of what is happening.  With today’s monitoring not only can you see what has been happening in previous months but customers can also access real-time information.  For customers that want complete transparency, it is important to seek out a colocation facility that is capable of and comfortable with allowing customers access to this sort of information.  What data centers must understand is that to provide this level of transparency means that they must also truly deliver on what they are promising to their clients.  What customers must understand is that the technology is still trying to catch up to modern data centers and today’s customer’s desires for transparency.  When renting space for colocation that houses multiple clients it can be tricky to provide customers with truly unique information and statistics that specifically pertains to their business and their business alone.   But, developers realize that and technology is getting there because the need exists.  While every data center is different, most modern facilities should have a DCIM plan in place that includes extensive monitoring.  This is not only because data center managers need this in order to properly maintain their facility and maximize uptime but because without it they cannot truly provide transparency to customers.  When choosing a data center, it is imperative that customers talk about monitoring options with their managers.  If your data center does not currently have these capabilities in place, discuss what options will be going forward.  It is beneficial for everyone involved that transparency is the name of the game so customers should seek out locations that prioritize transparency and colocation facilities should make every effort to move in the direction of transparency to stay at the forefront of technology.


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Why Data Center Assessments Are Critical for Success


Any business or office must periodically assess itself from top to bottom in order to continue to succeed.  This is done in different ways depending on the type of business, size of business and more but regardless of the fine details, every business must do it.  If a business is not assessing itself it is not learning where potential problems lie so that they can be prevented and they are not maximizing efficiency or profit.  Success begins with a full and complete picture of even minor aspects of  a business and a data center is no different.  Data center managers that obtain a full picture of what is happening in their facility with regular assessments are able to see where energy is being used efficiently, where it is being wasted, where potential threats to sensitive information and uptime exist and can then make full and informed decisions about how to make adjustments.  By doing so on a regular basis there is no time or money wasted on things that are not working or inefficient

With regular assessments, data center managers can see where things stand with capacity, efficiency and storage needs which is important as many data centers find themselves in predicaments that could have been otherwise avoided.  How often do we hear about a data center running out of room and having to suddenly move.  A data center move is a major undertaking and the more time to carefully execute a move, the better. Are you about to roll out something new like cloud storage or virtualization?  An assessment must be completed before rolling out something new to ensure that it will be successful and not create problems. Additionally, how many times have we heard that power needs exceeded power supply ability?  It is exactly these scenarios that remind us that many problems can be avoided with assessments.

It can be easy to talk about the need for monitoring but the true challenge is implementing consistent schedule.  Will they be conducted from within or will an outside party be hired to conduct assessments?  How often will they be completed?  What will be assessed?  All of these questions must be answered and a precise strategy implemented, as well as communicated to staff so that everyone is on the same page and assessments can provide real and accurate information.  Physical infrastructure must be assessed because so often this is where we see major problems arise.  Whether there is inadequate backup power supply, inefficient PUE, infrastructure is starting to outgrow existing space or infrastructure can actually be reduced and efficiency improved – a current assessment of infrastructure will provide a significant amount of information about a data center.  Because everything is connected and somehow interrelated it is important to assess everything in its entirety to ensure that nothing is missed and nothing accidentally negatively impacts another aspect of the data center.  Once an appropriate assessment plan is determined a schedule should be set and it should be executed regularly and consistently moving forward which will help a data center to remain efficient and effective in the future.


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Why More Data Centers Are Looking at Servers with Built-In Batteries

Advanced PDU

Sometimes it may seem like all we talk about is backup power supply but there is a reason – when it comes to data centers, a reliable and effective backup power supply can make or break a facility.  Yes, it is that serious.  Downtime can create a nightmare for clients and, if even for a short time, can be very costly.  Because downtime is often preventable and the result of human error it points toward a need for better maintenance and management of backup power supply.  Redundancy is key and with a knowledge of your location’s specific needs you can see how to best provide redundancy 24/7.  Slowly but surely, more and more data centers are recognizing that servers should have batteries built in.

Data centers are forever on a quest to increase energy efficiency while maximizing uptime and it seems that servers with batteries kills two birds with one stone.  Each server can be equipped with a built-in battery pack that eliminates the need for big uninterruptible power supplies that are far less efficient.  Built-in server batteries can also help reduce conversion losses.  Energy losses during power conversion can create a number of problems and built-in batteries help solve the problem by eliminating the risk.  Data Center Knowledge explains how savings can be achieved in a variety of ways and efficiency dramatically improved, “Facebook says it expects to gain similar efficiency benefits, reducing the energy loss during power distribution from the current 35 percent to about 15 percent. The company said it can lower its power bill by simplifying how electricity travels to its servers.  In most data centers, a UPS system stands between the utility power grid and the data center equipment. When there is a grid outage, the UPS taps a large bank of batteries (or in some cases, a flywheel) for “ride-through” power until the generator can be started. The AC power from the grid is converted into DC power to charge the batteries, and then converted back to AC for the equipment… yield enormous savings on equipment purchases. “You no longer need to buy a traditional UPS and PDU system,” said Michael. “On the capex side, it’s a huge win. This can save millions of dollars that you no longer have to spend on a UPS system. We hope to see the industry move to a model like this.” Facebook’s enormous growth is clearly giving it leverage with its vendors, which are working with the company as it customizes its equipment. An example: typical servers use 208 volt power to the servers. Most power supplies can also support the 230 volt and 240 volt configurations now being implemented to capture extra efficiency.”  Facebook and Google have actively implemented servers with built-in batteries and with such enormous data centers proving how effective it can be it has other data centers taking notice and making the shift.

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Data Center Infrastructure Trends












Technology is never static, it is in a constant state of evolution.  Because of this, data centers must be vigilant about monitoring and maintaining their infrastructure so that they can see when updates are needed so that their infrastructure remains compatible and efficient with current technology.  Every year, it seems, there are a few common things that become popular infrastructure updates in data centers.  2015 was no exception.  By analyzing what infrastructure trends were popular in 2015 among data center it will help managers to better formulate a picture and plan going into 2016 so that their data center can get the necessary updates it may need and remain at the forefront of technology.

An increased focus on energy efficiency has led to a popular infrastructure trend in 2015 – in-row cooling.  Traditional perimeter computer room cooling may get the job done but it will probably not do it in the most efficient way.  Rather than turning the temperature way down and hoping for cool air to be circulated where it needs to in a room, focused in-row cooling achieves the same cooling effect but more efficiently because it is directed at what specifically needs cooling.  Another infrastructure trend has been high density data with an increased use of cloud storage.  As more and more facilities strive to operate within their existing space and be more efficient, a big shift towards cloud storage has occurred because it is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to add storage to a data center without dramatically increasing space or cooling needs.  Continuing with the more efficient and eco-friendly theme of infrastructure trends is a shift toward double-conversion, multi-mode UPSs.  These UPSs are far more efficient than even traditional double-conversion UPSs so many data centers wanting the best possible backup power supply (and they should!) are often opting to update their infrastructure with more eco-friendly and efficient UPSs.  Additionally, a trend toward maximizing uptime has been seen in 2015.  After many facilities experienced so many natural disasters, as well as man-made problems, many data centers are looking at their infrastructure to see what they can do to maximize uptime.  It is critical to have infrastructure that can be continuously monitored.  This will allow managers to have the most current information possible about their data center through improved technology so that they can make the most informed decisions about not only emergencies but maintenance that can help prevent emergencies.  All of these trends have been pretty common among data centers in 2015 and for good reason – all of these will help maximize uptime, improve efficiency, lower expenses, protect data and keep customers happy.

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Which UPS is Right For Your Data Center?

Data Center Power







If you have been reading our blogs for a while you have probably heard us shout the importance of reliable backup power from the rooftops.  For a data center, it is one of the most important things for the successful reduction of, and hopefully elimination of downtime.  With the high cost of downtime, not to mention the extreme frustration, it is critical that facilities implement the appropriate uninterruptible power supply .  But, not all uninterruptible power supplies are created equal.  Different UPSs can handle different power loads and it is critical that you not only have backup power, but that you have the appropriate and adequate amount of backup power to support your facility should it be needed.

When it comes to UPSs, there are a variety of options that include standby, line-interactive, double-conversion and double conversion UPSs with multi-mode capabilities.  A standby Uninterruptible Power Supply is ideal for personal computers and is not typically used in a data center application.  Standby UPSs remain in standby mode and only operate should they be needed.  With a line-interactive UPS, the battery and the AC power inverter are connected to the Uninterruptible Power Supply at all times.  It is highly efficient and reliable, making it useful in a variety of continuous power supply applications.  Double-conversion Uninterruptible Power Supplies are commonly used in high voltage applications and takes almost no time to switch between power applications making it ideal for data centers.  The most recent technology improves upon double-conversion UPSs with a double-conversion multi-mode style.  Data Center Knowledge provides a good description of how it improves upon traditional double-conversion UPS models, “Referred to as multi-mode UPS, or eco-mode, this technology uses smart control logic to switch in milliseconds, as needed, between a premium efficiency mode (multi-mode) and a premium power protection mode (rectifier/inverter double conversion). This improves the energy efficiency of converting alternating current (AC) power to direct current (DC) power by reducing conversion steps required when utility power is within an acceptable tolerance. If there is a power anomaly that affects the load to data center servers and equipment, multi-mode UPSs quickly switch to double conversion mode. With energy efficiencies topping 98 to 99 percent compared with double conversion technologies operating at 92 to 95 percent levels, these new multi-mode UPS architectures offer  significant operating expense (OpEx) savings for data centers.”  Managers must carefully weigh their unique power needs, along with their facility capabilities, to determine what Uninterruptible Power Supply will be the right fit for them.

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Battery Maintenance & Monitoring Key to Reduced Outages in Data Centers

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If you have ever tried to turn on a flashlight only to realize the battery no longer works, you are familiar with the importance of battery maintenance and monitoring.  Yes, it is on a smaller scale, but it illustrates the problem.  If a room is dark and you need light, that worn out battery will do you no good and you will be left in the dark.  The same holds true for a data center.  Maintenance and monitoring are the key to ensuring your backup battery and power supply will function when you need it most.  Proper monitoring and maintenance will not only ensure that a battery is not dead, but also that a battery is capable of handling required power loads.  So often, backup power supply is inadequate because routine maintenance and monitoring was neglected and when the need arose, it was already too late.  Downtime is dreaded among data center managers, and for good reason.  Data Center Knowledge points out just how costly a single minute (yes, just one minute!) can be for a data center,” Unplanned data center outages are expensive, and the cost of downtime is rising, according to a new study. The average cost per minute of unplanned downtime is now $7,900, up a staggering 41 percent from $5,600 per minute in 2010, according to a survey from the Ponemon Institute, which was sponsored by Emerson Network Power. The two organizations first partnered in 2010 to calculate costs associated with downtime. Downtime is getting more expensive as data centers become more valuable to their operators. The increase is driven by the increased value of the business operations being supported by the data center, the survey indicated.”  And, we do not even need to point out the fact that this study was conducted in 2010, 5 years ago, which means that data center downtime is likely even more staggeringly costly now.

One of the best ways to ensure that your data center does not experience costly downtime is to properly maintain and monitor your backup power supply.  A data center’s uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is only as good as the battery it depends on.  If the battery fails, it is far from “uninterruptible.”  And, maintenance and monitoring must be complete and thorough because even a partial outage will be costly.  While we discussed the cost per minute above, it is important to note that most outages do not last only one minute – far from it.  Data Center Knowledge goes on to note that data center outages are often quite lengthy, ” The average reported incident length was 86 minutes, resulting in average cost per incident of approximately $690,200. (In 2010 it was 97 minutes at approximately $505,500.)  For a total data center outage, which had an average recovery time of 119 minutes, average costs were approximately $901,500. (In 2010, it was 134 minutes at about $680,700.)  For a partial data center outage, which averaged 56 minutes in length, average costs were approximately $350,400. (In 2010, it was 59 minutes at approximately $258,000.)”   Battery maintenance and monitoring should be a part of any data center routine maintenance and continuous monitoring strategy and if not, it could cost millions!  It is critical that data center managers do not rely on battery manufacturer’s strategy battery life expectancies.  By putting all your eggs in that basket, you rely heavily on controlled test environments which are often vastly different than real applications in an actual data center environment.  Most data centers have experienced an outage in the last year or two but that does not mean it has to be your data center.  By performing visual inspections and using a quality monitoring service you can prevent a large number of unnecessary outages from occurring, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of dollars for your business and keeping your clients happy.

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Distributed Antenna Networks and Small Cell Networks Require Reliable Power Supply



We have all been there – we need a wireless connection but just cannot seem to get a good signal.  We scream at our phone and shake our fists at the heavens in frustration because we expect to have constant wireless signal for our wireless devices.  When it does not happen, we are truly astonished because good and reliable wireless service has become as expected as water is when you turn a faucet on.  Distributed antenna networks or (DANs) require a reliable and strong power supply but another solution – small cell networks –  also require a reliable power supply.  Just like any data center relies on a strong and reliable power supply, so do networks that distribute wireless connections for mobile device users.

Small cell networks are believed to be a critical part of the future as mobile data traffic continues to rapidly grow each year.  A small cell network is easier to implement and also more environmentally friendly.  It does not require a large cell tower but, instead, a compact base station that are relatively lightweight and easy to deploy, making them very appealing.  These small cell networks provide data support to only a limited number of customers based on subscription so that, rather than being a part of a large group all trying to access the same network, you are part of a much smaller base accessing an network which helps control output power needs.  These small cell networks are being deployed at a wide range of locations such as event stadiums, convention centers, theme parks, malls, colleges and universities, hotels or resorts, hospitals, medical centers, and much more.  This allows for  a more reliable service with a lower power supply need.  But, even with a lower power supply need, the supply must be reliable.  Uninterruptable power supply is the crux of a good service in the data industry.  With small cell networks there will be more reliability and a decrease in delays.  They provide much more capacity than macro cells to their subscribers which means more satisfied customers.    Getting power to small cell networks can be challenging if they are outside mounted on lamp posts or other inconvenient areas.  Luckily, so often, there are reliable power supplies available from local utility companies but it is critical to ensure that you have uninterruptible supply even in the event of emergencies – when people often need their wireless devices.   Because of the rise of small cell networks there are many power supply companies that create reliable power supplies directly designed for small cell networks.  Whether talking about a distributed antenna network or a small cell network, uninterruptible power supply must be present with redundancy so that unfortunate power outages do not occur and customers remain happy.

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