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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

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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?

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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

Advanced PDU

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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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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How to Transform Your Data Center By Implementing Energy Efficiency

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It may seem like, when it comes to data centers, all we talk about is energy efficiency.  While this may be somewhat true, it is for a good reason.  Data centers use A LOT of energy.  Just how much?  The New York Times provides more information about how much energy data centers are using and points to why energy efficiency is needed, “Worldwide, the digital warehouses use about 30 billion watts of electricity, roughly equivalent to the output of 30 nuclear power plants, according to estimates industry experts compiled for The Times. Data centers in the United States account for one-quarter to one-third of that load, the estimates show. “It’s staggering for most people, even people in the industry, to understand the numbers, the sheer size of these systems,” said Peter Gross, who helped design hundreds of data centers. “A single data center can take more power than a medium-size town.”  That description is truly astonishing and as technology evolves data usage is only growing.  But, the way data centers use energy is something that can be controlled and more and more data centers are looking at every possible option to improve energy efficiency.

It can be easy to theorize ways to improve energy efficiency but it seems that often so many ideas remain theories.  And, if energy efficiency measures do get discussed the road to implementation is frequently long.  For existing data centers the focus must be on improving PUE (power usage effectiveness).  A complete audit of existing infrastructure is necessary to develop a proper DCIM plan and begin to implement continuous monitoring.  With a complete picture of infrastructure you can locate areas in which energy is not efficiently being used and either eliminate that infrastructure, replace that infrastructure or find better ways to improve efficiency through other methods such as improved cooling.  More and more we see data centers relocating to climates in which it is easier to take advantage of cooler temperatures for a form of free data center cooling.  If relocation is not a possibility there are other ways to work with your existing location and still use cooler weather to efficiently cool your data center when it is available.  Additionally, by creating zones such as hot zones and cold zones or hot aisles and cold aisles you can take advantage of containment and focus your energy where it is needed without wasting it on other areas.  Regardless of whether you are moving or retrofitting your data center, there are ways to improve energy efficiency that will not only be beneficial to the environment but will save a significant amount of money once implemented.

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Droughts, Heat Waves, and High Data Center Cooling Costs

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Just like a homeowner is familiar with the steady increase in utility bills during the hot summer months, so are data center managers.  Data centers use a lot of energy to maintain proper temperature and maximize uptime through properly running infrastructure.  The hot summer months make it more difficult to keep things cool without going bankrupt.  As we move into the fall and enjoy cooler temperatures, it is a good time to take a look back at the cooling measures implemented in the data center and see what improvements can be made to make it as efficient as possible.

To begin identifying where improvements can be made you must first identify what exactly is using the most energy.  By determining, for instance, where hot spots are you can begin to see where cooling measures must be directed.  Rather than uniformly increasing or decreasing temperatures, seek first to locate and contain high temperatures.  What works best for a data center will depend on certain factors like data center size, infrastructure, and specific needs.  What works for many is to implement a hot aisle/cold aisle containment system or even a completely contained room.  By doing this you can direct cooling to the specific area you need it without wasting those efforts on areas that are not hot to begin with.

While this is a good starting point, to better manage a data center and adjust management strategy on a regular basis it is imperative that a data center implements continuous monitoring.  Without continuous monitoring, making adjustments will often be based on guess work.  With the help of continuous monitoring you can have real time data that shows what is happening so that you can make adjustments on a month by month, day by day, hour by hour and even minute by minute basis.  This will not only improve your ability to improve energy efficiency but also help prevent downtime.  Continuous monitoring will also allow you to begin to recognize patterns in the data center and anticipate what your data center can handle.  Armed with this information and a more targeted approach to cooling, you can operate comfortably at warmer temperatures – even one degree can have a significant impact on utility bills – and be able to make appropriate adjustments should they be needed.  By the time the temperatures begin to warm up again next year you will be well-seasoned at understanding what is happening in your data center and will be able to make informed decisions for how to better approach cooling during the hot summer months.

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UPS Life Cycle

UPS lifecycle

Most UPS systems are the first line of defense against utility outages and load failure, so it’s important to understand how long the system will last and when to repair, maintain or replace the system. Having a conversation with a knowledgeable industry expert will help you determine the optimal time to purchase a new system, as well as help you determine the type of system that best meets your requirements, restrictions and budget. Contact Titan Power today for a FREE system consultation.

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What Kind of Power Distribution Unit (PDU) is Right for You?

Advanced PDUWhen it comes to data center design few things get more attention than power distribution.  Power distribution units (PDUs) must be carefully selected for any data center based on power usage needs, anticipated future needs and what level of intelligence you would prefer from your PDU.  Power distribution units can be quite simple and straightforward or they can be very sophisticated and intelligent with power metering, environmental monitoring within the data center and the ability to support very sophisticated and high powered systems.  Downtime is crippling and costly so it is critical that extreme attention is paid to selecting just the right power distribution units for your data center.

There are many kinds of PDUs available today including basic PDUs, metered PDUs, and switched PDUs.  A basic PDU is exactly as it sounds, a reliable power distribution source that sends power to multiple pieces of equipment within a network application.  While it may sound simple, it gets the job done and that is the most important thing.  However, if you need something with some more features, such as metering, a metered PDU may be ideal.  Metered PDUs still provide the same basic use but in addition it allows for better data center management because metering provides data center managers with information as to how much power is being used.  This is important for growing data centers because it will give data center managers a heads up when power supply is may be insufficient.  If power usage is going to exceed what the PDU is capable of data center managers will be able to remedy the problem ahead of time rather than potentially having to deal with downtime.  And, for added convenience, switched PDUs provide the same benefits bas basic PDUs and metered PDUs with the addition of being able to turn PDUs on and off remotely.  This is ideal for data center managers that oversee a large network of data centers.  They can turn PDUs off remotely without having to travel to the data center itself, saving time and money.  Also, smart or intelligent PDUs are similar to switched PDUs and are able to be managed remotely and from the web.  The type and size of PDU you choose will depend heavily on what specific equipment you have and what your needs are.  You may even deploy a variety of PDUs throughout your data center.  Be sure to continually assess your data center to ensure that your PDUs are sufficient for your needs to avoid downtime.

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Preventing Problems in Data Centers

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When talking about data centers we tend to talk a lot about the importance of uptime and the measures to take to avoid dreaded downtime.  This is for good reason.  Clients and their employees and customers want uptime and downtime can lead to not only a lot of frustration but significant financial loss.  Data center managers must carefully assess the current needs of their data center as well as attempt to forecast future needs to properly prepare their data center and prevent downtime.  Good preparation is often the key to success.  Even if things in a data center are running relatively smoothly, downtime is minimal or non-existent and you feel pretty confident in how things are running.  But, it is usually soon after you start to get a little too comfortable and confident that vigilance begins to become less of a priority and problems arise.

To begin preventing problems in a data center, data center managers must have a firm grasp on exactly what infrastructure and equipment there is in the data center.  Additionally, they must understand current power and data usage.  By knowing this, and having a proper DCIM plan in place a data center manager will be ready to anticipate future needs.  When you assess your needs you will see if there is wasted power and be able to devise a plan to better use power.  Many data center problems are directly related power issues.  Server racks wasting power or not having an adequate backup supply of power in place.  In addition to taking a good preliminary assessment, it is important to schedule routine assessments often for your data center.  How often may depend on your specific data centers and its needs but it may need to be as often as once per year and as infrequent as every few years.  Routine assessment should check in on everything from infrastructure to the human side of data centers.  So often, when we think about data centers all we see are racks upon racks but there is still a human side to data centers and, in fact, human error can often be the source of a data center problem.  Data Center Knowledge points out just how significant a risk human error is in data centers, “But one of the leading causes of data center downtime is human error, as ComputerWorld reminds us in Stupid Data Center Tricks, which relays anecdotes of data center mishaps. The story notes a study by The Uptime Institute, which estimates that human error causes roughly 70 percent of the problems that plague data centers today.”  By identifying potential human error risks and dealing with them before they arise you will save yourself a lot of headaches.  Once you are in the habit of completing routine assessments you will begin to see patterns and be able to anticipate needs, make adjustments ahead of time and maximize uptime by minimizing data center problems.

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