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A Comprehensive Look at Data Center Cooling Best Practices

cold-serverIf there is one thing that all data centers must prioritize, constantly evaluate, frequently adjust, and dedicate a lot of resources to, it is cooling.  Data center cooling is a major priority because it is necessary to keep all equipment running smoothly and safe but it is also a major drain on resources so employing data center cooling best practices and implementing eco-friendly, energy efficient cooling mechanisms is incredibly important.  

There is perpetually a heavy burden placed on any data center’s cooling system and that burden grows and changes as there are load changes, as is the case with most data centers.  Data is not getting smaller, cooling needs are generally only increasing.  But, data centers must evaluate what the cooling needs are, and what the warmest operating temperature can be to still operate efficiently and effectively while protecting data.  Additionally, many legacy data centers do not have the most energy efficient cooling systems in place and so data centers must evaluate if new cooling methods need to be implemented.

How Much of a Data Center’s Resources Are Dedicated to Cooling Costs?

Technology, Network Server, Data.It is no secret that data centers use a lot of energy.  In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that the amount of energy used by some data centers is more than some small countries.  Allocating an appropriate amount of resources to cooling is important, but it is also important to use that as a guide when trying to reduce cooling costs without sacrificing any data center functionality, efficiency, or safety.  Data Center Knowledge elaborates on the challenge of cooling data centers in an industry that is constantly evolving and just how much resources cooling tends to take up, “The cooling process accounts for 40 percent of all power consumed by data centers, so this question is a top priority for operators. Ensuring optimal cooling in a data center not only lowers operational expenditure, but it reduces the strain on equipment cooling mechanisms, extending the lifespan of the hardware; and freeing up power for IT equipment, increasing equipment uptime. The decision to invest in cooling infrastructure is easy, however, choosing the method with which you regulate temperature within the data center can be more challenging.”

What Temperature is Ideal for a Data Center?

This is a challenging question to address because no two data centers are the same.  This answer to this question will be influenced by the location of the data center and the surrounding climate, the size of the data center, the equipment within the data center, the redundancy measures the data center has implemented, what amount of the data and equipment in the data center is considered mission critical, etc.  Power Admin further explores the delicate balancing act that is choosing a temperature to maintain for a data center, “The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) created a data center classification system in 2011, with a range of recommended operating temperatures, to match. For general purposes, this stands at 81 F (27 C), but maximum allowable temperatures can reach 113 F (45 C). Note that this is actually the temperature at which increased equipment failure rates may occur – so it’s in your best interests to maintain ambient temperatures well below this level. Deciding on your optimum level is a bit of a balancing act. On the one hand, a data center which is held at a somewhat higher temperature will require less cooling (and therefore less energy consumption and cooling equipment). On the other, running your hardware at a higher temperature runs the risk of glitches and outright failures.”

What Data Center Cooling Methods Are Available and Are They Sustainable?

Ways to Cool a Data CenterData center cooling methods and strategies obviously involve more than cooling specifically – it means the removal of hot air as well. But there are many options when it comes to the specific ways you can remove air and cool rooms in a data center.  First, it is important to note that if you are considering ways to update your data center’s cooling methods it is ideal to consider what eco-friendly, energy efficient cooling methods are available.  Many data centers are taking advantage of their surrounding environments to help cool their data center in a more sustainable way that also saves money on the costs of cooling in the long run. If choosing data center location is an option, or if the data center is already located in a relatively cool or cold environment, utilizing the natural resource of cold air to cool a data center is a great option.  Additionally, liquid cooling has become very popular, with major corporations and industry leaders adopting liquid cooling in their data centers.  Natural Cycle Energy makes note of some leaders in eco-friendly, sustainable data center cooling, “Mark Zuckerberg knows something about having to manage massive server data centers as the owner of both Facebook and Instagram.  In 2013, Facebook launched the Lulea server center that is cooled naturally by the Nordic air, coming from the Arctic Circle, and whatever residual heat is left over is used to heat the office above…Apple is a corporation that has shown its commitment to sustainable energy.  When the Maiden, North Carolina data center was under construction, some were unsure if the facility would be able to be 100% powered by green technology.  They did it.  Not only does the whole facility run on sustainable, eco-friendly power sources but much of its data center cooling is achieved with free-outside air, allowing the chillers to be turned off 75% of the time…Google has practically become synonymous with innovation and their Hamina, Finland location is no exception.  Built from an old paper mill, they pull seawater from the Gulf of Finland to run through the server’s heat exchanges and then remix the warm water with cold before returning it to the Gulf.”

Does Implementing Data Center Cooling Best Practices and Sustainable Cooling Significantly Impact the Cost of Cooling a Data Center?

AdobeStock_87909563There can be a tremendous cost associated with implementing new cooling methods in a data center.  While the costs will range depending on the data center, location, and unique needs, many wonder if they will see a significant ROI on their investment.  And, it is important to note that by implementing eco-friendly, sustainable data center cooling methods, many data centers are able to see a significant reduction in operational costs over time. Data Center Knowledge points out that there are many different ways to implement data center cooling best practices that range from relatively simple to very complex, “ASHRAE’s latest version of TC 9.9 drastically expanded the recommended and allowable temperature and humidity ranges with the approval of the major server manufacturers. It is estimated that an energy savings of 2-4% can be realized for each degree Celsius the temperature is raised in a data center…Another undisputed, easy and inexpensive energy saver is hot or cold aisle containment. Preventing the mixing of cold and hot air results in a higher return air temperature that yields an increased efficiency of the cooling system. Many systems exist ranging from hard containment systems to simple refrigerator curtains that you might see in a meat locker. Have a limited budget? Hot or cold aisle containment provides a compelling financial argument for adoption…There have been a few projects of late that use either sea water or ground water for cooling, which is very efficient as it effectively eliminates the need for much of the cooling equipment. A site in central Nebraska is pursuing this tactic by using irrigation wells with a volume of 1,000 GPM at 52⁰F as the source of groundwater for cooling and re-injecting the water back into the aquifer. This is not only very energy efficient, but uses little to no water for cooling, saving on both capital expenditures (CAPEX) and operating expenditures (OPEX) through the elimination of much of the cooling equipment.”

Begin by evaluating where areas of waste in cooling may be.  Perhaps you can adjust the operating temperature by a degree or two, or perhaps certain rooms do not need the amount of cooling they are currently receiving.  By evaluating this you can find areas of waste and, if Uptime Institute is correct, the average data center is only using about 40% of the cooling air that is being supplied while essentially wasting the other 60%.  Data centers must take a close look at their energy use, particularly in the area of cooling, to see if there are any areas of waste or opportunities for improvement.  Most data centers can find at least one cost-effective way to implement data center cooling best practices and many can take advantage of the significant cost savings that implementing energy-efficient, sustainable data center cooling methods can offer.

 

Posted in computer room construction, Computer Room Design, Data Center Build, Data Center Construction, data center cooling, Data Center Design, data center equipment, Data Center Infrastructure Management, data center maintenance, Datacenter Design, DCIM, Facility Maintenance, Mission Critical Industry, Power Distribution Unit, Power Management | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off

Data Center Cybersecurity Drills

Preparing for the Worst – Data Center Cyber Attacks

truth-about-hackersPreparing for the worst is something that is a priority, or at least should be, for every data center.  But, for data centers, there are many potential ‘worst’ case scenarios that could be encountered so preparing for each different type of threat can be challenging.  A comprehensive data center infrastructure management and disaster preparedness plan should be in place for every potential scenario.  But, a plan is only good if everyone knows what to do when the emergency happens.  Facilities have fire drills or lockdown drills but there are other drills that every data center should conduct on a routine basis – cybersecurity drills.

Data Center Disaster Preparedness

Cybersecurity is a massive threat to the public and private sector and in data centers where sensitive and critical information is often stored, cybersecurity must be effectively protected.  We have all seen emails from banks, major corporations, retail stores and more than alert their customers to a security breach that has now left their sensitive information exposed to potential theft.  That is the last email anyone wants to receive and certainly the last email that any company or data center wants to send.  

AdobeStock_78784722Cybersecurity preparedness involves many different facets including a comprehensive evaluation, a checklist of what to do in a variety of different cybersecurity breach scenarios, and ultimately, everyone needs to actually practice what to do.  Data Center Knowledge explains the importance of having a cybersecurity breach plan and the need for proper practice and drills to prepare all employees, “Too often, cybersecurity preparedness is a checklist. Are there backups? Check. Is there a firewall? Check. Is there off-site cloud failover? Check. Is there a disaster preparedness plan? Check. But until those systems are tested under real-world conditions — or as close to them as possible — you won’t know that everything works the way it’s intended to. “The number-one question asked by regulators after a data breach is whether the target company has an established breach response plan, and if so, whether the plan was ever practiced in advance of the breach,” said Ananth. And the technology is only half the battle. In a disaster, people panic. Lines of communication break down. People forget what they’re supposed to do, make mistakes because they’re in a rush, or just hide and hope that the problem goes away. Disaster preparedness plans go out of date quickly as people move around and as infrastructure is reconfigured.”

Data Center Cybersecurity Drill Importance

Thought a cybersecurity drill may seem like a nuisance, it is an important and necessary nuisance.  And, while it can certainly be a challenge to not only put your data center through a cyber attack drill as well as get customers to participate in the drill, it will ultimately prove immensely beneficial.  There is more than one type of cyber attack to simulate in order to be more thoroughly prepared so it is important to test large-scale and more segmented attacks. What often arises during a cybersecurity drill is the awareness of unforeseen security and response gaps.  By identifying those gaps, you can make the necessary adjustments before a cyber attack occurs so that you can either avoid an attack or have a more swift and effective response when one occurs. 

spring-cleaning-checklist-datacenterDuring a cybersecurity drill, it is important to assess response timing on multiple levels.  How quickly do individuals and teams respond and either thwart or mitigate a cyber attack and also how quickly are you able to inform customers of the most current and accurate information?  So often, there is mass confusion during a cyber attack and determining how to respond in a coordinated and effective way can be more challenging than if something like a fire happens.  If a fire happens you can see it and you know to get out of the building and get the fire put out. If a cyber attack happens – where do you start?  EY emphasizes the importance of rehearsing various cyber attack scenarios and ensuring that everyone knows what their response role is in the event of an attack, “While every incident is different, a typical response plan follows a structured approach. This starts with detailed planning and preparation, which includes testing capability through simulation exercises. Once an incident is identified, it is triaged (categorized and classified) and initial steps are taken to contain the impact. An investigation into root cause is commenced and, once possible, steps are taken to remediate the issue and bring the organization back to a stable state. A key step that is often skipped is following up after the incident with lessons learned to enable long-term improvements in both the response process and the organization’s ability to sense, resist and react in future. The capability to react rapidly to a cyber attack helps to minimize the possibility of long-term material impacts…A response plan solely focused on and run by IT is destined to fail. An effective response involves all aspects of the organization, from the CEO, to HR, general counsel, media relations and IT, among many others.”

Establishing a Chain of Command and Crisis Communication Plan

What is the chain of command?  How is information shared between departments in the event of a cyber attack?  All of these questions must be asked so that people can know exactly how things should flow efficiently when an attack has been identified.  For this reason, it is important to develop a crisis communication plan that works as a flowchart of sorts. When everyone knows who they need to communicate with it eliminates confusion and the spread of misinformation.  Data Center Knowledge explains how a cybersecurity drill should involve the most comprehensive collection of staff throughout the organization possible, “Finally, the disaster response drills shouldn’t be limited to just technical personnel. If a cybersecurity disaster has the potential to affect a company’s reputation and cost it customers, then senior business executives may need to participate. ‘Business execs are often under the spotlight during times of an attack,’ said Malik. ‘Therefore, they should understand what the drill looks like, what steps are being taken, and how, so that they are prepared.’ If there’s a likelihood of bad publicity or compliance issues, then legal, compliance, and public relations personnel may need to be involved. Responders should also be prepared for the possibility of a disaster that’s beyond their capabilities to handle, said Wayne Lee, senior cybersecurity architect at West Monroe Partners, a Chicago-based business consulting firm. ‘Security professionals should always have contact information ready for law enforcement, outside counsel, cybersecurity insurance, and specialized forensic firms,’ said Lee.” And, any outside vendors that your data center works with should be participate in the drill or have emergency response information and plans in place that you can implement into your cyber attack drill.  The quicker, more accurate, and more efficiently you are able to communicate, identify the cyber attack problem, remediate the problem, and begin to restore normal operations, the more less damage and loss your data center will experience.  And, the better your data center will look to customers who have been impacted when you inform them that a breach has occurred.

Preparing to Notify Clients of a Data Center Security Breach

data_center_facebookThe longer it takes your data center to disclose a data breach to your customers, the worse it looks and may lead to business and revenue loss that could potentially be detrimental to your data center.  A swift, honest and accurate response that outlines the precautions taken against cyber attacks, as well as the actions are taken once the cyber attack occurs will reassure customers that you are doing everything in your power to protect sensitive information.  For that reason, it is important that you draft potential response templates in advance so that you can quickly adjust information if a breach occurs and swiftly inform your clients.  As the old saying goes, ‘fail to plan, plan to fail’ – and that is certainly true for data center cybersecurity.  The more comprehensive a cyberattack response plan is, and the more practice that is undertaken in the form of drills, the better.  Through cyber attack drills, your data center will be able to better anticipate potential weak points in your existing cybersecurity and be able to more swiftly and effectively respond if a cyber attack occurs.

 

Posted in Back-up Power Industry, Cloud Computing, Data Center Battery, Data Center Design, data center equipment, Data Center Infrastructure Management, data center maintenance, Data Center Security, Datacenter Design, DCIM, Facility Maintenance, Mission Critical Industry | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Analytics Improve Data Center Efficiency

The Need for an Analytic-Driven Data Center

AdobeStock_93793795Everyone knows the importance of analytics in today’s modern, digital world.  Without measurable data, it is difficult to make informed decisions about operations, efficiency, personnel, products, utilities, and more.  Analytics is a critical component of any data center’s DCIM (data center infrastructure management) but – only if the analytics are being used.

Most data centers are collecting a wealth of information via analytics, whether they realize it or not.  And, if data centers are being run effectively, the analytics are being used to optimize efficiency and maximize a data center’s potential.  The way data centers run is constantly changing as the overall landscape changes, technology updates, and more consistent performance is continually demanded.  Data Center Knowledge explains how metrics were analyzed and used within the data center previously and why moving towards an analytic-driven data center is so important, “Optimization, as applied to data centers, means always having the right amount of resources, to cost-effectively enable the business use of those data centers. Right resourcing means, in effect, enough to get the data center “job” done, but not so much as to waste money. Everything from enough power and floor space to enough “computes,” and everything else. Easily said, but increasingly challenging to accomplish. It used to be that one would optimize any given data center resource by measuring resource utilization; for example, how busy a CPU is, and then make a considered determination of what level was sufficiently busy to be upgraded or extended, or sufficiently non-busy to warrant consolidation. This approach was used, and useful, for everything from CPUs, memory and other server metrics, to things like power consumption, where metrics like PUE (power utilization effectiveness) were created and applied. However, these types of optimizations were always done in domain isolation – silos in effect.  On the software side, pervasive virtualization, containerization, and software automation have completely changed the measurement landscape. The increasingly rich metrics embedded in server chipsets open exciting new possibilities…The closer that data centers can get to complete instrumentation of important metrics like transactional response time and throughput, the lower the overall associated costs will be to successfully deliver those business services, and the more efficient such data centers can become.”

Every data center is unique – the buildings are unique, employees are unique, companies are unique, data demands are unique, heating/cooling is unique, technology being used is unique, etc.  Thus, data center analytics is crucial because it is the only way to gather the data necessary to make informed decisions. Data center analytics provide facts that simply cannot be denied about how a data center operates – good or bad.  Once the analytics are assessed, most data centers will have at least one (or a few) areas in which they can make improvements. As data centers continue to evolve and adapt to modern demands, the insight that analytics provide will directly influence how a data center develops more efficient processes.

Adopting Analytics to Maximize Energy Efficiency in the Data Center

The adoption of data-driven operations within a data center will help improve operations, make data centers more efficient, and provide a wealth of other benefits.  One of the most significant benefits of utilizing analytics as a tool in data centers is that you can get a clear picture of what is and what is not energy efficient within the data center.  Data centers use an astonishing amount of energy and so any areas in which savings can be found can have a significant impact.  In fact, by strategically using data center analytics to inform improved energy efficient practices within the data center, millions of dollars can be saved.  Data Center Frontier explains why analytics are so important in maximizing data center energy efficiency, “Keeping track of how much power you are consuming and how much is available is foundational to the efficiency of any data center, but many data center managers don’t look beyond total actual active power and budgeted power capacity remaining. Trending power capacity can help you forecast more accurately, while tracking actual power by customer cabinets and a location’s total power month to month can help you manage customer billback and energy usage more accurately.”

Adopting Analytics to Maximize Operational Efficiency in the Data Center

Data center operations are constantly changing because technology, infrastructure, and personnel are constantly changing.  The way to avoid confusion and maximize operational efficiency is to have a robust DCIM and that includes the use of analytics to inform decisions.  Making decisions about how to update a data center based on assumptions or anecdotal evidence from the past is not the best way to move forward in a thoughtful and efficient way.  First, assumptions and anecdotal evidence are rarely correct so you are already starting off on a bad foot.  But also, you want hard facts about exactly what has happened in the past as well as predictive analysis that can help you be well-prepared for the future.  And, with real-time analytics you do not have to wait until some arbitrary, pre-determined maintenance date to analyze data, you can see exactly what is happening the moment it is happening so that you can make in-the-moment decisions about how to adapt for data center needs.

Streamline Yet Maximize Data Centers – How?

As data gets bigger and both physical and digital demands increase in data centers, there is a simultaneous greater demand for reducing the footprint of a data center.  So, how are data centers supposed to do more with less exactly?  Analytics can help optimize operations, infrastructure, and energy use to do just that. Without analytics, there are often servers not in use that are being stored and even drawing on the energy resources of a data center.  Rooms that are maintained at a specific temperature may be able to adjust that temperature by 1 or 2 degrees and save a significant amount of money on cooling costs.  There are so many things that come to light when data center analytics are examined.  TechBeacon explains how analytics can often bring to light wasteful resource allocation, “The combination of asset and usage data also enables you to identify waste. Remember those 10 million idle servers worldwide? Analytics and reporting tools can pinpoint physical servers that are running but whose usage is zero. Retiring them or reallocating them to other workloads eliminates waste and reduces spending. In addition, asset and usage data helps uncover resources that have been overallocated capacity. Organizations that are moving into virtualization without a clear understanding of the capacity requirements of the virtualized machines (VMs) may overallocate capacity to be sure there is enough capacity for the VMs and applications running on a physical server. It’s not uncommon to see a virtual server running on a powerful host even though that server is not doing heavy work and does not require the capacity that has been allocated to it. Moving it to a less powerful host in the data center frees up capacity on the more powerful host.”

Data Center Analytics Provide Transparency

A data center may be run by a manager or team of personnel but often a CIO, customer, or another individual will want to know exactly what is happening in the data center to maximize operational and energy efficiency.  Without analytics, you will be left trying to explain what is happening without any real concrete evidence of your efforts.  Data center analytics is a great way to enhance a data center’s transparency in their efforts to be more operationally and energy efficient.  Every data center, regardless of size, must utilize analytics as an important component of their overall DCIM to maximize operational and energy efficiency moving forward.

Posted in Back-up Power Industry, Cloud Computing, computer room maintenance, Data Center Battery, data center cooling, Data Center Design, data center equipment, Data Center Infrastructure Management, data center maintenance, DCIM, Facility Maintenance, Internet of Things, Power Distribution Unit, Power Management, Uninterruptible Power Supply, UPS Maintenance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Importance of Replacing UPS Battery Capacitors

What is a UPS Battery Capacitor?

ups-158315_1280One of the most critical power elements of any data center is its UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply).  There are many different types of UPS systems but, generally, they all rely on a battery to provide the power needed should a data center power interruption occur.  Because of this, data center UPS batteries must be regularly checked and maintained to ensure that they work when they are needed.  There are different components of a UPS battery that influence its ability to properly work.  One part of a UPS battery – the UPS battery capacitor – must be replaced as needed for the UPS battery to be able to work.

Eaton explains what a UPS battery capacitor is and why it is so important, “A capacitor is a fairly simple electrical device that stores and releases electrical energy. These devices can be as small as your thumbnail or as large as a soda can — depending on the amount of voltage they’re expected to digest (their rated capacity). Generally encased in aluminum or chromium-plated cylinders, capacitors contain a pair of conducting surfaces (often metallic plates or electrodes) which are separated and insulated by a third element, called the dielectric medium.

Why is this important? Along with the surface area of the aluminum plate, the thinness of the dielectric layer determines overall capacitance — that is, how much charge can be stored or managed by the capacitor. The ultra-thin oxide layer possesses remarkable insulating characteristics, making it possible to manufacture very small capacitors that handle very high workloads… The primary use of DC capacitors in UPS applications is to smooth out fluctuations in voltage — a process also known as “supply voltage filtering.” If there’s a change in voltage input, the capacitor dampens the voltage change, eliminating the peaks and filling in the valleys to help maintain a constant voltage level. AC capacitors have much of the same characteristics as DC capacitors in that they have an expected period of useful service and should be considered as perishable commodities…Wet capacitors, when properly designed and fabricated, show very gradual changes in essential characteristics over time, when operated at normally rated voltages. However, the paper, aluminum foil, and electrolyte inside the capacitor are subject to normal breakdown. As those materials age and start to degrade physically and chemically, they lose capacitance. Ultimately, the capacitor no longer performs its job. Adverse operating conditions such as excessive current and heat can hasten the demise of capacitors.”

Why Is a Deteriorating or Failing UPS Battery Capacitor a Problem?

gnb-industrial-power-sprinter-upsA deteriorating UPS battery capacitor may not always be obvious until there is a problem.  The last thing you want to do is be unaware of the problem and leave your critical equipment unprotected. Because of this, it is critical that data center managers and technicians uphold a regular maintenance schedule.  UPS capacitors can be tested, removed, and replaced individually as needed.  A capacitor has a typical shelf life of about 5-8 years.  But, the actual life of service provided by your capacitors will vary greatly depending on a wide array of factors such as heat, usage, etc.  All UPS capacitors are designed to last a certain length of time but while the manufacturer may say they last a certain length of time it is important to understand that there are two other lifespans for UPS capacitors: effective lifespan and average lifespan.  The average lifespan shows a more accurate picture of how long a UPS capacitor lasts in real life situations.  The effective lifespan is the average lifespan at which a UPS capacitor will provide fully effective, undiminished service to the UPS battery.

All UPS batteries have multiple capacitors but the number of capacitors will depend on the specific battery size.  UPS battery capacitors generally work together in tandem.  That means that if one capacitor fails the others take over for it and it can be challenging to know which one has failed or to even notice right away.  Though a single UPS battery capacitor failure may not completely take you UPS down it will impact the UPS battery performance and ultimately could impact the quality and amount of power available should a power failure occur.

UPS Battery Capacitor Failure Prevention

AdobeStock_78784722To prevent UPS battery capacitor failure it is important to properly maintain ambient conditions within the data center as well as regularly maintain your data center.  A comprehensive and consistent data center infrastructure management (DCIM) program is the best way to protect mission critical data center equipment including the UPS system. Battery Power Online elaborates on why having a proactive capacitor replacement program in place is incredibly important for any data center, “However, ensuring battery health by itself isn’t the only factor affecting system uptime. UPS systems also contain large banks of both DC electrolytic and AC polymeric film capacitors that degrade with time. The function of capacitors within the UPS is to filter out electrical fluctuations and provide clean power to the equipment being protected. They are not static electrical components that operate in a circuit. Their design life is a mathematical function of manufacturers’ rated voltage, the voltage actually applied, the current running through them, ambient temperature, and thermal resistance. For all practical purposes, estimating service life would be based on manufacturers’ rated voltage combined with the device’s operating temperature. Over time, even under the most favorable operating conditions, capacitors’ ability to withstand voltage and pressure changes diminish. Adverse operating conditions like excessive current and heat, along with overwork, can accelerate the process considerably. Capacitor failure modes are hard to predict. Sometimes they fail catastrophically, but most of the time, they simply degrade with age. Aging capacitors can contribute to the degradation of batteries and shorten their useful life. But replacement, with original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts, will help ensure a longer mean time between failures (MTBF) of the UPS and optimize battery life. Battery abnormalities that go undetected, or those that are not properly diagnosed and corrected, can have catastrophic consequences in the data center including costly downtime. Along with helping you establish a regular battery maintenance program, a trusted service provider can set up, maintain and integrate an on-site battery spares cabinet. This solution offers IT and facility managers added peace of mind knowing that fully-charged, ready-to-install batteries are on hand. Additionally, a proactive capacitor replacement program can be established based on equipment age, operating conditions and time of last replacement. However, a replacement program for capacitors based on an experienced service provider’s historical field data is the most reliable way to plan an ideal replacement time, and ensure a healthy backup power system that is able to support business-critical operations when it’s needed.

Because UPS battery capacitors are considered a ‘consumable’ and will naturally degrade over time, regular maintenance and replacement is an important component of proper r data center UPS maintenance.  Most data centers (and businesses in general) are doing everything in their power to maximize uptime.  Power redundancy is key to maximizing reliable and consistent power supply and that means that you need a reliable UPS system that does not fail when it is needed.  APC lists capacitor failure as one of the 5 most common causes of UPS failure and that simply points to a strong need to proactively maintain and replace UPS battery capacitors.  In fact, APC notes that even small adjustments to ambient conditions can help you maximize capacitor life, “Every 10°C (18°F) decrease in temperature doubles capacitor life, so ensure that customers monitor environmental temperature and keep it within the specified range to improve life expectancy.”  Consistent monitoring will help ensure ambient conditions are maintained.  And, consistent maintenance will help ensure that you are able to check and see when capacitors are reaching the end of their lifespan or require replacement before it impacts the performance of your data center UPS system.

Posted in Back-up Power Industry, Data Center Battery, data center equipment, Data Center Infrastructure Management, data center maintenance, DCIM, Facility Maintenance, Mission Critical Industry, Power Management, Uninterruptible Power Supply, UPS Maintenance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

How Power Loss Effects the Education Sector: The Importance of Emergency Backup Power for Schools

Importance of Adequate Power Supply in Education Facilities

Importance of Adequate Power Supply in Education Facilities

Getty Image Via: Huffington Post

The education sector constantly faces a wide array of risks that could impact their access to the power necessary to run their facility.  Whether it is a preschool, elementary, junior high, high school or higher education facility, without power, education cannot take place.  Power outages do not just threaten one specific climate, location, or facility.  Education facilities can be impacted by flood, fire, hurricane, tornado, storms, heat, outside attackers, or other potential threats.  And, if those threats happen to an education facility, power could be lost for minutes or days.  That is a threat to not only education but public safety as well.

Though adequate power supply and a sufficient backup power system is critical for any education facility, the importance and stakes may be even higher in certain higher education facilities where there are mission critical medical facilities or lab facilities.  Regardless of the facility, all can agree that adequate backup power supply be available.  But, determining how much power is needed and for how long can be challenging for education facilities.  Backup power must be sufficient, scalable, and reliable.

What Are the Power Loss Threats to an Education Facility?

classroom2Imagine the panic that could ensue if you have a school full of children or adults and the power goes out.  If an adequate backup power supply is in place, it will kick in automatically and supply the necessary power to keep things like electricity functional without interruption.  But, if there is no backup power supply in place, it cannot handle the full load, or has not been tested and maintained and simply fails, panic may take over.  A school could be left without lights, phone, computers, and if there are things like keypads or electrically-accessed door locks, they may not be accessible.

An education facility power outage can delay education, impact school schedules, lose data, damage equipment, lose money, endanger lives, and more.  With so much at stake at every education facility, emergency backup power is an absolute necessity.  Many educators, administrators, or facility managers may think all they need is a backup generator, but it is far more complicated than that.

What Type of Backup Power Does An Education Facility Need?

cat generatorWhen posed with the question, “what type of backup power does an education facility need?”, the simple answer may be, “a backup generator.”  But, a school must determine exactly how much power supply they need to support their full load in the event of an emergency.  That varies significantly when you consider the different size and facility networks.  A small local preschool will have different needs than a large state university.  But, regardless of the current size, it is also important to ensure your backup power supply is scalable so that, should needs shift, you can still easily supply your facility with necessary power.

Once the full power load for an education facility has been determined, there is still more to consider.  An education facility cannot simply purchase a backup generator and call it a day.  To adequately protect a school’s power supply the facility will need batteries, backup power supply or uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems, emergency lighting, power conditions, and power distribution units (PDU).

Education Facility Backup Power Needs Are Growing

Today’s modern education facilities use more power than ever before because of technological advancements.  Schneider Electric elaborates on why all modern education facility UPS systems must be evaluated to ensure they can handle the significant power demands in the event of a power outage, “School districts all over the country are getting on the technology bandwagon, bringing tablets and Chromebooks into the classrooms and incorporating them into lesson plans…The proliferation of devices in schools is driving the need for increased bandwidth forcing schools to look at their wireless infrastructure.  The same wireless infrastructure that supported one or two wireless devices used by teachers in the classroom cannot be expected to handle the traffic generated from an entire roomful of students, each armed with an iPad or Chromebook…As you upgrade the switches or routers supporting the wireless infrastructure, check to see whether they are connected to an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). A UPS can provide backup power that enables the devices to stay connected even during a power disturbance or outage.  Just as important, they also provide “clean” power, taking care of any power surges, jitter and such, which can damage sensitive IT equipment. Such anomalies are not uncommon in a large building such as a school. If the school has air conditioning, for example, whenever it kicks on that is likely to cause a rather dramatic power fluctuation. The UPS will make sure switches and routers are protected and available…Switches and routers don’t draw a lot of power, so a correctly sized UPS can keep your students engaged and connected through a power outage of 30-60 minutes, which is typically enough to ride through the outage. What’s more, a UPS will also protect your investment in networking gear, keeping it safe from brownouts, surges and other potentially damaging electrical events.”

Education Facility Backup Power Supply: More Than Just a Generator

eaton upsWhen it comes to backup power supply for the education sector, there are many components needed.  Many education facilities use a standby generator.  Standby generators work by supplying power when they sense a power interruption.  Standby generators tend to work for short durations, typically a few hours, First, when choosing a generator you will need to choose between a diesel generator and gas generator. You will also need power switchgear, a power distribution unit (PDU), uninterruptible power supply (UPS), reliable UPS batteries, and more.

Backup Power Supply and UPS Service and Maintenance is Critical

In addition to having all of the adequate equipment and proper installation, all education facilities must properly service and maintain their backup power supply, including UPS and UPS batteries, to ensure that they will function properly when needed.  Things like batteries have a limited lifespan and over time, even if they are never used, they will slowly lose capacity and eventually will fail.  The University of Washington elaborates on just how important frequent maintenance and backup power supply testing is, “The power plant electrician asks the group if they’re ready with their stopwatches, then counts down. Three—two—one—the lights go black for a beat. Five giant diesel engine backup generators, each larger than a pickup truck, begin to roar. The lights are back on; surgeries continue without missing a beat, and priceless research continues to stay frozen in a lab on campus. It’s a monthly test of the University’s backup power generation capabilities down at the Power Plant….’There are two different kinds of tests we do on a monthly basis,’ said mechanic Ray Massie. ‘Then, once a year, we have a ‘no-kidding, let’s see what this thing can really do’ test where we open up the generators and run them at capacity for four hours to ensure they can handle maximum loads.’…Testing the University’s backup power capabilities isn’t just for peace-of-mind, it’s a regulatory requirement nationally from the National Fire Protection Association that came into place after Hurricane Katrina. While the NFPA has required testing for many years, it’s an extended duration test that came out of the Katrina disaster.

Image via: HavasuNews

Image via: HavasuNews

‘After Katrina quite a few hospitals in New Orleans ran into power problems,’ said Mark Kirschenbaum, assistant director of campus utilities and manager of the Power Plant. ‘Hospitals in that region were able to start up their backup generators, but then they quickly failed. They hadn’t tested their backup systems long enough or with a large enough load to discover any problems.’ The requirement for the four hour load test is every three years. The University runs short-duration full load tests every month, and the four hour test every January, exceeding the NFPA’s requirements. ‘It’s not just about crossing Ts and dotting Is,’ said Massie. ‘The University, the medical center—they depend on us to keep running. We need to make sure our systems really work.’”

When choosing the backup power supply for your educational facility it is important to work with a company that can help you determine how much power you need to support your full power load in the event of an outage.  Additionally, it is important to work with a company who can maintain your UPS system and components or train you and your personnel on how to best maintain equipment to ensure that they do not fail when needed most.  Redundant power is not simply a luxury or best practice to which education facilities should aspire. Rather, a robust UPS system and backup power supply is an absolute necessity to reduce financial and equipment losses, and protect human lives.

Posted in Back-up Power Industry, Facility Maintenance, Internet of Things, Mission Critical Industry, Power Distribution Unit, Power Management, Uninterruptible Power Supply, UPS Maintenance | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off

What is a ‘Mission Critical’ Facility?

data centerA ‘mission critical’ operation, system or facility may sound fairly straightforward – something that is essential to the overall operations of a business or process within a business.  Essentially, something that is critical to the mission.  But, as any data center manager or IT director will tell you, mission critical is far more complex than that.  While there are many data centers that are mission critical, places like laboratories, public safety centers, hospitals, military facilities and other locations are considered mission critical as well.  CIO elaborates on what constitutes a mission critical system, “Mission-critical computing has historically been defined as secure, reliable and scalable computing and process environments that support a company’s front office processes and operations. These are the processes and operations that directly support an organization’s end users and customers. The operations are mission-critical because they are core to the company’s mission and, if they fail, they can cause significant financial or reputational damage to the organization. In some cases, as with certain critical infrastructure, government and military systems, if they go down, they may also have an impact on national security. Mission-critical systems generally require high transaction volume capabilities such as those within banking or retail systems, border security, airline reservations or logistics…In the consumerization era, the scope of mission-critical computing was expanded further to include a proliferation of customer-facing, mobile- and social-enabled applications, brought about by the consumerization of IT, as well as applications such as collaboration, web, portal, CRM, HR and finance. The sheer number of these applications increased as organizations expanded customer touch-points across multiple channels and devices. Typical applications included customer service, customer support, e-commerce and m-commerce, as well as social business.”

If we use this generally agreed-upon definition of mission critical systems, and we concern ourselves not only with life and death operations, or critical business operations, but also with damage to a business’ reputation, that has a much wider scope.  In today’s technologically-advanced world, end users expect services and systems to be readily available whenever they want or need them.  Should downtime occur, even for a few minutes, it could lead to significant damage to reputation.  The expansion of the Internet of Things means that the average person relies heavily on connectivity and technology not just for business operations but day-to-day life including home automation, personal technology devices, and more.

pexels-photo-236093A mission critical data center facility’s uptime must be protected on multiple levels.  Redundancy is the name of the game in mission critical facilities.  One of the first things to consider with your mission critical facility is location.  If you have your choice of location, it is advisable to choose a location that does not typically experience extreme weather conditions.  By reducing the risk of things like flooding, tornados, hurricanes, etc., you reduce the risk of e a choice of location, the next thing you must do is implement multiple redundancies that take into account potential weather and environmental hazards that could threaten uptime.  Additionally, by choosing the right location you can maximize energy efficiency which saves significant money in the long run, keeps you compliant with current restrictions and guidelines regarding data center energy usage, and protects the environment.  Area Development explains why choosing the right location for your mission critical data center is so important, “No matter how well a building is designed, without the right public infrastructure in place, a mission-critical facility will face a litany of challenges. A site’s security, geography, power capacity, and fiberoptic connectivity are all vital. Data centers are power hogs. They require advanced energy infrastructure, so the reliability of the power grid is a critical site selection factor. The idea of data center microgrids is catching on as operators pursue reliable, high-quality power that endures when the central grid is unavailable or congested…The environment must be assessed for risks such as exposure to extreme weather events, seismic activity, and flood plain threats…Last, climate plays a role as air temperature and humidity levels impact energy costs significantly. Temperate climates offer natural cooling through systems that rely on outside air to offset the heat generated by equipment inside.”

finger-2081169_1280In addition to the important of the perfect location, a mission critical facility must maximize security as well.  A mission critical facility requires multiple levels of both physical and cyber security.  Physical security begins with access to the facility itself and then access to particular rooms within the data center.  Physical security is not just a security guard and a keycard to access a building anymore.  While necessary personnel must have access to data center mission critical systems to keep operations running, they have also been shown to cause a significant percentage of downtime.  Mission critical facilities, in particular, must protect who has access to mission critical systems at all times. Many advancements have occurred in the area of mission critical physical security.

There are many areas of physical security including the site perimeter, facility/building perimeter, computer room, equipment racks, and more.  APC elaborates on why physical security is complicated and there is no one-size-fits-all solution, “The reason security system design seems so complicated is this: We do not have the technology to quickly, easily, and cheaply determine a person’s identity with certainty. What we have is an assortment of methods of varying effectiveness, convenience, and expense, resulting in difficult cost/effectiveness/risk analysis and the necessity of combining technologies or implementing concentric security peri- meters for backup…A typical security scheme uses methods of increasing reliability — and expense — in progressing from the outermost (least sensitive) areas to the innermost (most sensitive) areas. For example, entry into the building might require a combination of swipe card plus PIN; entry to the computer room might require a keypad code plus a biometric. Combining methods at an entry point increases reliability at that point; using different methods for each level significantly increases security at inner levels, since each is secured by its own methods plus those of outer levels that must be entered first.”

binary-2170630_1280In addition to physical security, cyber security must be of the highest priority in a mission critical facility.  Mission critical facilities often store and transmit confidential, sensitive information.  If compromised, financial information, identity information, and even national security can be jeopardized.  First, data centers must comply with federal regulations for the handling of confidential or sensitive information.  Cyber threats are very real, very diverse, and very advanced so mission critical facilities must have security that is capable of handling such robust attacks.  Security Sales and Integration points out just how much value industry leaders and governments are placing on cyber security to protect mission critical information and systems, “Cybersecurity has become mission critical for both the public and private sectors with annual cybercrime damages forecast to reach $6 trillion by 2021 (according to Cybersecurity Ventures). Spending continues to increase dramatically with the federal government expanding its annual cybersecurity budget by more than 35% to approximately $19 billion in 2017. Additionally, many private sector companies are spending in excess of 20% of their IT budgets in this area.”

One of the most tricky parts of advancements in redundancy for mission critical facilities is that many are employing IT infrastructures for remote monitoring and site management.  Additionally, should there be downtime at a mission critical facility, the entire load can be instantly shifted to a networked data center that is capable of protecting mission critical information.  But, because of the IT infrastructure, it also expands a mission critical facility’s vulnerability to cyber attack.  Further, as we continue to rely on the cloud to store mission critical data center information, vulnerability to cyber attack is also expanded.

hacker-1944688_1280A comprehensive and robust physical and cyber security structure will help protect mission critical facilities against downtime, physical and cyber attack, and be a critical loss mitigation strategy.  Further, redundancy in security, storage, power, and maintenance is generally accepted as a necessary component of any mission critical facility’s operations and best practices.  Data centers must have prepared instructions and plans for a wide array of potential disasters or unforeseen problems.  There must be adequate power to support the full load of information when needed.  There must be proper maintenance schedules and operations in place that do not get neglected.  When all of these things come together, a mission critical facility can maximize it’s uptime and reduce preventable downtime while properly and securely protecting information and operations,  Looking forward, mission critical facility needs will continue to evolve as the Internet of Things progresses and more and more daily business and personal operations are fully dependent on secure uptime.

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How Eaton, APC, Tripp Lite, and Vertiv Lead the Industry as Top UPS Manufacturers

UPS Manufacturer ImageEvery data center in the world utilizes Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPSs) for reliable backup power in the event of an outage.  Power outages can occur in a data center for a variety of reasons and can last ¼ of a second or days.  Any length of downtime is costly in a data center and the longer it goes on, the larger the repercussions.  When it comes to data center power, redundancy is the name of the game.

The importance of redundant power in data centers cannot be emphasized enough.  But, in spite of data centers knowing this full well, we see backup power supplies failing time and time again.  Why is this?  To have an adequate and reliable backup power supply consistent maintenance and repairs must take place and managers must anticipate future growth and needs to be able to adequately support the power load if an outage occurs.  GCN reports on how costly data center outages are and the fact that UPS failure remains the number one cause of data center downtime, “According to a recent study by Ponemon Institute, the average cost of a data center outage rose to $740,357 in 2015 — an increase of 38 percent since 2010. The increase in the maximum downtime cost ($2,409,991) was even greater, climbing 81 percent over that same time period… Uninterruptible power supply (UPS) failure continues to be the No. 1 cause of unplanned data center outages, accounting for one-quarter of all such events.”

Data center managers are tasked with determining what UPS is best for their unique needs and what will best support their power load should it be needed.  There are many UPS manufacturers in the market with a variety of products so choosing can be difficult.  But, what we do know is that Eaton, APC, Tripp Lite, and Vertiv remain the industry leading UPS manufacturers.  To understand why this is it is important to take a closer look at each manufacturer.

But, before we look at each manufacturer we must discuss that choosing a brand is not simple because many products seem very similar but there is a huge range of price points.  Data Center Journal explains why it is important to choose well-known, respected UPS manufacturer brands for your data center’s backup power supply, “Many UPS vendors are in the market despite the consolidation of the last three to four years. Some of these are well-known and established brands with proven engineering and testing divisions. They also provide their own engineers for warranty and support maintenance. At the same time the number of new brands is slowly growing, and some of these brands appear to be rebadging similar equipment. Here it is hard to prove the engineering quality because this is a sealed box unit with no user maintainable components. This means that critical electronics that deal with waveform distortions and harmonics as well as varistors that deal with power spikes cannot be proven to be enterprise quality. At the same time, finding local engineers to support the UPS is not a guarantee, and you could find that your nearest engineer is more than a day away. In a time of fiscal belt tightening, choosing a new, cheaper brand for a system that is rarely seen might seem like a sensible business decision. But a UPS is part of your critical infrastructure that needs regular maintenance and the attendance of an engineer as soon as something goes wrong. Skimping on this is a false economy.”

eaton bigFirst, Eaton is a well-known industry leader and their UPS products.  Eaton is a power management company that has been in business for decades and continues to produce state-of-the-art equipment today.  They provide energy-efficient solutions for data centers that effectively manage power equipment with efficiency, safety, and sustainability.  Eaton is dedicated to producing high quality products that not only provide data centers with solutions but that improve the quality of life and environment.

Eaton has a complete portfolio of power management solutions, showing that they understand all the ins and outs of every system component and their UPS solutions are no exception.  Eaton UPSs help protect critical equipment through the provision of uninterruptible power and backup power systems.  Eaton’s UPSs can be used to provide high quality backup power to everything from desktop PCs to large data centers.

APC_LockupLogo_tcm131-134996Another industry-leading UPS manufacturer is APC.  They are often referred to as some of the best UPS systems you can buy but they are also one of the costlier options.  APC has been in business since 1981 and it well-known in the industry for creating innovative, reliable power products.  In 1990, APC introduced the Smart-UPS® line which is still recognized as one of the best network power protection solutions available.  Decade after decade they have continued to stay on the cutting edge of innovation and their UPS products are some of the most highly regarded and popular in the world.

tripp liteNext, Tripp Lite is another UPS manufacturer that remains incredibly popular in the data center industry.  Tripp Lite has been in business since 1922 and has a wide range of products including UPS systems for a fully integrated, well-functioning system.  They were actually the first company to manufacture UPS systems for desktop computers and they continue to adapt and innovate with new UPS products today.  Tripp Lite understands that a UPS system must provide enough power to outlast an outage as well as automatically save files while shutting down a computer safely during blackouts.  They have a wide range of models with various capacities including single-phase and 3-phase UPS options.

Ver_logo_tm_hrz_rgb_gryLastly, Vertiv is a global industry-leading power solution manufacturer and make some of the most highly-respected UPS systems in the market.  Vertiv, formerly known as Emerson Network Power, produces efficient and reliable UPS systems that have a wide range of power capacity to meet the needs of a data center’s mission critical systems.  Vertiv is constantly innovating and Frost & Sullivan recently commended them for their ability to incubate new UPS technology, “Based on its recent analysis of the uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system market, Frost & Sullivan recognizes Vertiv, formerly Emerson Network Power, with the 2017 EMEA Frost & Sullivan Award for Product Leadership. Vertiv has consistently been mentioned among the top-three global UPS participants because of the exceptional success of its advanced UPS technologies. Its cutting-edge products are perfectly aligned with evolving customer requirements, and boast industry-leading design and scalability. A case in point is the highly innovative Liebert® Trinergy™ Cube UPS, the first static UPS capable of hot-scaling up to 3.4 MW in a single unit, and up to 27 MW when connected in parallel. This power capacity could previously be achieved only by rotary UPS solutions…Vertiv’s AC power UPS portfolio encompasses power ranges from 500 VA to 3.4 MW in a single unit, and provides offline, line-interactive, and online double conversion technologies. Each of its product categories caters to numerous end-user verticals, including niche light industrial applications such as transportation, utility support, healthcare, and industrial processes. ‘The company’s technology excellence is complemented by its brilliant product positioning and pricing strategy,’ said Frost & Sullivan Senior Industry Analyst Gautham Gnanajothi.”

It is exceptionally important that a data center manager do their due diligence and conduct in-depth research into the various UPS manufacturers and their various UPS options for data centers.  When chosen correctly, a UPS system will provide a data center with the adequate amount of power throughout any power interruption or power failure.  Power interruptions and power failures happen every day in data centers and should not be taken lightly.  An adequate power supply must be available at all times which means a data center manager must not only anticipate future needs and growth but constantly maintain and monitor the UPS to ensure that it will be able to provide the necessary power when needed most.  Investing in the right uninterruptible power supply now is not just proactive; it can save you a lot of money and frustration in the long run.  It protects future profitability and provides you the peace of mind that mission-critical operations will not experience downtime.  By choosing one of a UPS from some of the most well-respected and innovative brands including Eaton, APC, Tripp Lite, and Vertiv you will know that you are preparing for any potential risk, providing your data center with adequate reliable redundancy, and setting your data center up for maximized uptime.

Posted in Back-up Power Industry, computer room maintenance, Data Center Battery, data center equipment, Data Center Infrastructure Management, data center maintenance, DCIM, Mission Critical Industry, Power Distribution Unit, Power Management, Uninterruptible Power Supply, UPS Maintenance | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Reduce Cooling Costs and Improve Energy Efficiency with High-Heat Tolerant VRLA Batteries

Data Center Backup Power Supply Batteries

batteryAll data centers are run on power and (hopefully) the security and peace of mind of having a robust UPS and backup power supply in place.  This is important because power loss can occur for a variety of reasons but if you have a UPS in place with battery capable of withstanding the necessary power load, your data center does not have to experience major outages that cause downtime.  No two data centers are the same and thus every data center has different UPS needs.  What works for one will not necessarily be the best choice for the other so it is necessary to analyze all components of a UPS to ensure you have the best backup power supply for your data center.

Wet-Cell Batteries

When it comes to UPS batteries, data centers frequently choose from two common types: wet-cell batteries (also known as “flooded cell batteries” and VRLA batteries.  Wet-cell batteries are essentially rechargeable batteries that are frequently used in industrial applications.  Sciencing provides a helpful description of what wet cell batteries are and the science behind how they work, “A well cell battery generates power from an electrode and a liquid electrolyte solution. Early wet batteries consisted of solution-filled glass jars and with an electrode dropped into each one. About the size of the average toaster, modern wet cells are used in the ignition system of most cars and are comprised of lead and a solution of sulfuric acid. A sheet of insulation is typically used to separate the anode from the cathode. Wet cells can be either primary or secondary cells.”

Wet-cell batteries are an older technology than VRLA batteries but offer their own set of advantages over VRLA batteries for certain scenarios.  Wet-cell batteries are incredibly reliable but require special installation considerations because they are not “sealed systems” like VRLA batteries.  In fact, wet-cell batteries actually need a separate battery room for safety purposes (protection against acid spills).  However, if properly and consistently maintained, wet-cell batteries can provide a long lifespan of service – typically between 20-25 years.  Even if a wet-cell battery fails it tends to “closed fail” which means that only the one battery that fails, fails.  It will not affect the other batteries in the group.

VRLA Batteries (Valve Regulated Lead Acid Battiers)

gnb-industrial-power-sprinter-upsWhile wet-cell batteries offer data centers a long lifespan of service and a considerable amount of reliability, most data centers today use VRLA batteries.  VRLA batteries are “valve regulated lead acid” batteries and they carry a higher power density than wet-cell batteries.  TechTarget explains the science behind VRLA batteries and how they differ from wet-cell batteries, “VRLAs are the norm in most modern UPS systems for data centers. These batteries use a paste electrolyte in a sealed container, as well as a different charging system that makes them much safer and circumvents special facilities to house them. VRLAs take longer to recharge than wet cell batteries, and the other major tradeoff is the UPS battery life. While flooded lead acid batteries can be expected to last up to 25 years with proper maintenance, VRLA batteries often need replacement after only three to five.”  VRLA batteries are able to withstand varying climates better than wet-cell batteries and additionally they tend to recharge more quickly than wet-cell batteries.

Importance of Heat-Tolerant VRLA Batteries

VRLA batteries offer a number of advantages over wet-cell batteries for modern data centers.  Though, it is important to note that the one major drawback of VRLA batteries is that they tend to “open fail” which means that if one fails, the whole string of batteries fail which can lead to major problems.  Data centers generate a lot of heat because of the high volume and concentration of electrical components.  When batteries are exposed to high heat for a prolonged period of time, it can reduce their lifespan and reliability.  Schneider Electric describes the importance of maintaining ideal temperatures for VRLA batteries, “All batteries have a rated capacity which is determined based on specified conditions.  The rated capacity of a UPS battery is based on an ambient temperature of 25°C (77°F).  Operating the UPS under these conditions will maximize the life of the UPS and result in optimal performance.  While a UPS will continue to operate in varying temperatures, it is important to note that this will likely result in diminishing the performance and lifespan of your battery.  A general rule to remember is that for every 8.3°C (15°F) above the ambient temperature of 25°C (77°F), the life of the battery will be reduced by 50 percent.  Therefore, keeping a UPS at a comfortable temperature is crucial to maximizing UPS life and capabilities.” Some data centers are concerned with implementing VRLA batteries because they fear they might experience “thermal runaway.”  Thermal runaway is when the heat generated inside a battery exceeds the rate at which it can be dissipated into the environment which could lead to a catastrophic battery failure.  However, thermal runaway is fairly uncommon in VRLA batteries. But, because of the heat-sensitivity of traditional VRLA batteries, using a high heat-tolerant VRLA battery is ideal in a data center application.

vrla

Image Via: TechTarget

Heat-tolerant VRLA batteries are specifically designed to survive in high temperature environments.  This reduces costs for data centers in a number of ways.  First, because the batteries can not only survive but perform well in a high-heat environment, cooling costs are reduced. Science Direct notes that cooling costs are one of the largest expenses for any data center – it averages approximately 40% of a data center’s total energy consumed! By reducing the degree to which you must cool a room by even a small amount, you can yield significant utility savings.  Many data centers are being pushed and feel compelled to improve their energy efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint and this is one simple and effective way to do so. This small change significantly increases your data center’s overall energy efficiency.  Further, because the batteries are designed to withstand high heat, they will not wear out or fail as quickly which means you will not have to replace them as often which maximizes your battery investment.

Battery Monitoring and Maintenance Remains Important

Technology, Network Server, Data.Though VRLA batteries tend to fail more often than wet-cell batteries, this can be easily remedied by implementing a consistent and thorough battery monitoring and maintenance procedure.  This should be outlined in your data center’s DCIM strategy.  All of your data center’s infrastructure must be routinely monitored and maintained and your VRLA battery is certainly no exception.  Though a battery manufacturer will estimate an expected lifespan, batteries provide service in the real world where harsh data center conditions can and will factor in so never assume that your VRLA battery will last the full lifespan, even if the guidelines say that they will provide “maintenance free service for 10 years.”  This truly cannot be emphasized enough, even though VRLA batteries require less maintenance than wet-cell batteries, monitoring and maintenance is critical.

VRLA batteries are easier and less expensive to implement than wet-cell batteries.  As previously noted, wet-cell batteries require a separate room for storage for safety purposes but, as Schneider Electric notes, that is not the case with VRLA batteries, “VRLA batteries and modular battery cartridges can be used in the same room as the equipment they support. If the room has controlled access (i.e., accessible only by trained and authorized personnel), the batteries can be installed in open racks; otherwise the batteries should be in cabinets with lockable doors. Rooms and cabinets should be designed to prevent the accumulation of hydrogen.”

Though wet-cell battery has its place in the data center industry, most modern data centers can take advantage of improved energy efficiency, easier installation and implementation, and easier maintenance by using VRLA batteries for their UPS applications.  Data centers, though important and absolutely necessary for today’s world to operate, consume a huge amount of energy.  It is important for every data center, whether large or small, to look for ways to improve energy efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint.  Further, because high heat-tolerant VRLA batteries do not have the cooling requirements of other types of batteries, not only will energy efficiency be improved significantly but it will reduce overall utility costs.  And, because they are more resistant to high heat, VRLA batteries are unlikely to experience thermal runaway or fail, which extends the life of the battery and your overall investment in your backup power supply.

 

Posted in Back-up Power Industry, computer room maintenance, Data Center Battery, data center cooling, data center equipment, Data Center Infrastructure Management, data center maintenance, DCIM, Facility Maintenance, Mission Critical Industry, Power Management, Uninterruptible Power Supply, UPS Maintenance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Power Loss, Backup Power and the Healthcare Industry

hospitalThere are arguably few places in which reliable and sufficient backup power is more important than the healthcare industry.  While backup power is very important for a myriad of industries, in the healthcare industry, it can be the difference between life and death.  For the healthcare industry, just like any other industry, if power is interrupted or down for a prolonged period of time, critical operations and data are compromised.  Data could be lost or compromised and mission-critical operations interrupted.  But additionally, if power is lost and a sufficient backup power supply is not in place, critical life saving devices and technologies could become compromised and the health of patients risked.

For many, if a citywide power crisis occurs or some other natural disaster in which they lose power to their homes, they will look to hospitals to be a place of safety and refuge.  City residents rely on hospitals to be there when they need them, regardless of what other crisis may be happening in the surrounding city or state.  Imagine the chaos if a hospital loses power – lights out, medical devices not working, elevators not operating – it would be very frightening for everyone involved including medical professionals, hospital staff and patients.  Though no hospital thinks it will happen to them, as we have seen, it happens more often than it should.  Consumer Reports points out some notable hospital power failures and highlights why many failures happen, “When Superstorm Sandy knocked out power throughout coastal New Jersey and New York on Oct. 29, 2012, nowhere was the terror more palpable than in the darkened hallways and stairways of NYU Langone Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital. As both Manhattan hospitals lost power and their backup systems failed, nearly 1,000 patients had to be evacuated to other facilities. Most of us assume our local hospital will be a safe haven when disaster strikes. But that isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, hospital generators were known to be vulnerable long before Sandy. In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, about 215 patients died in hospitals and nursing homes, partly because generators stopped working. In 2011, a Connecticut hospital evacuated more than 40 patients when its generator failed during Hurricane Irene… A Consumer Reports investigation finds that while extended power outages in hospitals are uncommon, there are reasons for concern:

 

1.  Many generators are 50 or more years old.

2.  Many are housed in basements, and need to be protected from floods.

3.  Most hospitals can’t afford to move generators to safer locations, and federal and state governments aren’t likely to pick up the tab.

4.  There is no national standard for the installation of backup generators.

5.  Information about hospitals that fail generator tests isn’t available to the public.

 

To operate properly and be in compliance with national guidelines, hospitals must have sufficient backup power in place.  Unfortunately, common risks can go overlooked so it is important to understand what poses a threat to a steady and reliable hospital power supply.  Those risks include flood, fire, power outage, extreme weather, natural disaster, terrorist attack, and more.  Generators must be able to supply constant power in the event of an emergency or power outage because many life-saving machines and critical medical equipment require constant power.  Because of this, a sufficient backup power supply must be readily available at all times and redundancy is not just the cherry on the ice cream sundae, it is vitally important as well.  A sufficient backup power supply and redundancy are only good if one or both work well but that means maintenance and frequent testing must be part of the equation to ensure that they do not fail when they are needed most.

Many hospitals have long relied on generators to supply their backup power.  But, as Healthcare Facilities Today points out, generators are not necessarily the ideal option and should not be the only source of backup power for healthcare facilities, “Healthcare-related facilities could secure seamless operations using power management technology. Organizations relying on onsite generators for backup power are well aware that generators take time to get power to the critical equipment — interruptions in healthcare service delivery is not an option. Power outages, no matter how brief, can be dire risking patients’ lives undergoing surgery or under critical care at an ICU. While some healthcare organizations rely on smaller static UPS systems to support small, non-motor production loads, the most reliable UPS system for healthcare is the rotary UPS technology option.  The rotary UPS provides uninterrupted power for the entire infrastructure and eliminates risks of costly downtime while securing power for critical healthcare services… Healthcare organizations needing a 24×7 power supply can find the best value-add in a UPS system.  Most business-critical organizations select rotary-based UPS systems over costly static-based battery systems because battery systems require continued maintenance (consuming CAPEX funds) and must be regularly updated.”

To reduce power failure vulnerability, the healthcare industry must implement sufficient backup power supply and ensure that the load that needs support never exceeds the supply available.  In fact, it is ideal to not push the limits and, rather, keep the load at approximately 70-90% of what the backup power supply can offer in the event of an emergency.  The healthcare industry must have backup power for their servers to protect data and be able to access patient information and other critical data during an emergency.  Further, they must have steady, reliable power to medically-critical devices.  For hospitals and other healthcare facilities, there should ideally be virtually no lag time if a power loss occurs.  Consider a life-support machine – if there is even a few seconds of lag time between primary power and when the backup power supply kicks in, it could mean a patient loses their life.

Hospital Power Outage

Image Via: Consumer Reports

Redundancy and variety of backup power options is the name of the game for healthcare.  Never rely on just one type of backup power or you are sure to find yourself in a world of trouble when a power failure happens.  First, there should be off-site data storage to ensure that no data is lost if a power failure, fire, flood or other natural disaster occurs at the healthcare facility site.  That off-site data storage facility should also have sufficient backup power supply and redundancy.  Safely and securely utilizing the cloud is ideal because while it can be subject to cyber risk, it is unlikely to be impacted by a power failure or natural disaster.

Hospitals often take advantage of two primary types of UPS systems: double-conversion and parallel.  24×7 explains how double-conversion UPS works, “As the name suggests, these devices convert power twice. First, an input rectifier converts AC power into DC and feeds it to an output inverter. The output inverter then processes the power back to AC before sending it on to electronic equipment. This double-conversion process isolates critical loads from raw utility power, ensuring that the equipment receives only clean, reliable electricity.”  And, Critical Power explains how parallel UPS systems operate, “A parallel-redundant UPS system is one in which two or more modules are installed on the same system in what is termed an N+X arrangement (N being the power capacity required by the connected loads and X being the number of modules in addition to that capacity). Parallel-redundancy allows for the failure of one single UPS module in the configuration without the need for the protected load to be transferred to mains power. In such an event, the other UPS modules (all of which have spare capacity) can take over the total load.”

When choosing where to install a backup power supply such as a generator or other switchgear, think about the most secure location.  If it is a new install or you are looking to move your generator for optimal safety, install your backup power supply where it is most protected so that you can minimize its risk of being compromised.  Keep it in a location that is protected from inclement weather such as fire and flood – don’t keep it in the basement or on the roof if possible.  This will help reduce the odds of an extended utility outage.

When it comes to backup power supplies in the healthcare industry, you can never test them too much.  Prepare for the common reasons of power loss or the most likely scenarios and prepare for the unlikely and absurd power loss scenarios.  It is important to prepare for a variety of scenarios and exhaustively test your backup power supply to ensure that it will perform when it is needed most.  In addition to preparing for a variety of scenarios, backup power supplies should be consistently and routinely maintained and tested to ensure they are not only functioning but that they have an adequate power supply to support the full load if needed.  If a hospital experiences an outage that lasts even a few seconds, it can be chaotic, frightening and life-threatening.  All hospitals and medical facilities must implement proper backup power supplies, properly maintain them, prepare for a variety of scenarios, and ensure that the supply can support the full power load if necessary to give their facility the best chance of avoiding a power interruption or outage.

 

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The Dangers of Arc Flash in a Data Center and How to Avoid It

shock hazardA well-planned and well-managed data center anticipates potential hazards and works to minimize their risk. Additionally, by anticipating potential hazards, a data center can have appropriate response plans in case a potential hazard becomes reality.  At times, the level of preparation and planning can feel like overkill.  After all, what are the odds that the majority of these hazards or disasters will actually happen?  Probably very slim.  But, what happens if they happen to your data center.  It is far better to plan ahead then try to play catch up because playing catch up when disaster strikes usually means a disaster will be more expensive, damage more property, and possibly injure more people.  Arc flash is one potential hazard a data center may face.  But, it is not an unlikely, far-fetched hazard, it is very real.  Arc flash injuries are one of the most common on-the-job electrical injuries and can be incredibly harmful and even fatal.

A data center cannot simply turn off electricity to mission-critical servers if they need to be accessed or serviced.  Doing so would lead to downtime, frustrated clients, and lost revenue.  To understand why arc flash is concerning, it is important to have a clear picture of what arc flash is and how it can happen in a data center.  Consulting-Specifying Engineer elaborates on what arc-flash is and why it is such a significant hazard, “An arc flash is the result of an electric current passing through air as the result of conductor failure, equipment failure, or the accidental connection between voltage sources such as dropping a tool across buses in distribution equipment. The flash is immediate but the resultant release of energy can cause severe injury, and possibly death. There is a potential for a tremendous amount of heat to be released, which can result in overpressures, as well as flying debris. The energy released can cause temperatures exceeding 35,000 F, which can vaporize steel, copper, and aluminum. Inhaling these vaporized metals could be fatal. Injuries or fatalities could occur if personnel are in the area in front of an arc flash, which could send projectiles such as parts of metal buses away from the blast. Also, molten metal can cause significant burns, and the sudden air pressure increase can knock personnel off their feet. Each year, more than 2,000 people are treated in burn centers for injuries from arc flash incidents.”

What is truly frightening about an arc flash (as if it was not frightening enough already), is that an arc flash can set off a chain of harmful and dangerous events.  When an arc flash occurs in a data center, there is a significant amount of electricity around.  As the arc flash is happening, it can melt and even vaporize conductive material and with enough energy, can lead to an arc blast.  An arc blast is the result of the expansion of metal as it vaporizes.  An arc blast can cause additional injury and equipment damage as well as downtime.

Arc Flash Protective Gloves

Arc Flash Protective Gloves – Image via: OSHA

There are many things that can lead to arc flash.  Often, arc flash is the result of human error.  Additionally, if certain items such as tools or other items are stored on top of components, it can lead to an arc flash.  And, lack of preventative maintenance is a common reason arc flash occurs.  Preventative maintenance and visual inspections are one of the easiest things any data center personnel can do to prevent a myriad of problems, arc flash included.  Another reason arc flash can occur is if equipment was not installed properly.

As you can see, arc flash is highly preventable with proper planning, installation of equipment, and consistent maintenance.  It is important to take every precaution to prevent arc flash.  Not only because you can prevent the risk of equipment damage and downtime, but because there are certain safety standards put in place by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) for individuals who work with electrical equipment.  If you do not take proper precautions, you could by liable for on-the-job injuries that could have been prevented.  To remain OSHA compliant, you must have a proper safety program with defined responsibilities in place.  Your personnel must wear personal protective equipment (PPE).   Additionally, personnel must be trained on the hazards of arc flash and how to use appropriate tools to create a safe working environment.  All equipment should be properly labeled with warnings.  And, it is important that you calculate the degree of arc flash hazard.

warning

Image via: OSHA

Many data centers think that if they simply install equipment the correct way and complete preventative maintenance, that they are doing enough to prevent arc flash.  It is important that a data center does not skip the arc flash analysis.  Calculating your degree of arc flash hazard is essentially a risk assessment that will provide you with the information you need to know whether or not you are doing enough or need to improve to prevent arc flash.  TechTarget explains why arc flash hazard assessments are best left to special expert contractors, “But there is no substitute for a formal arc-flash analysis. It’s not a simple job, but if it’s done right — especially for a new electrical design — it might identify ways to mitigate arc-flash hazards and identify work that could be done without either a shutdown or a hazard suit…A thorough arc-flash analysis requires a comprehensive short-circuit study first. While this is a standard requirement of the electrical design process, an arc-flash analysis must evaluate the electrical design from a different perspective to mitigate arc-flash hazards. A breaker coordination study must also be done with the same goal in mind, even though it may have been done before. Breaker coordination ensures that the breaker nearest the fault condition trips first. If done with arc flash in mind, a breaker coordination study could help you select different circuit breakers or fuses than might normally have been chosen.”

Once the degree of arc flash hazard has been assessed, a data center can begin to implement arc flash risk mitigation measures.

 

Arc Flash Risk Mitigation Measures:

 

–   Complete assessment of data center facility and all of its electrical equipment. By completing a comprehensive assessment of data center equipment and, in particular, the electrical system, you can begin to identify potential hazards or problems within your system.

 

–   Documentation of assessment in one place, where all past and future assessments can be maintained for reference. Make any notes about the condition of the equipment, as well as when it was last maintained so that proper maintenance is never neglected.

 

–   Implementation of protective devices to prevent arc flash. After assessments have been made, if protective devices, such as arc-resistant switchgear or other equipment, can be installed to prevent arc-flash.  Electrical Contractor explains how arc-resistant switchgear works, “Arc-resistant switchgear is designed to redirect arc energy up and out of the equipment through ducts/vents outdoors away from equipment operators. The system is designed with vent flaps that will open under the pressure of an arcing fault and redirect the super heated gases and arc flash energy up and out of the equipment, away from personnel.”

 

–   All equipment must be properly labeled with any necessary diagrams or safety warnings provided in plain sight.

 

–   Only qualified, trained personnel should work on electrical conductors or other electrical equipment.

 

–   Implementation of defined protection boundaries according to NFPA 70E guidelines.

 

–   Use of protective safety equipment because it minimizes arc flash exposure should an incident occur.

 

–   Grounding is another option to reduce the risk of arc flash, as Schneider Electric outlines, “The method of system grounding can have an impact on arc-flash hazards.  High-resistance grounded (HRG) systems are not new, but recently they have been promoted as an arc-flash mitigation means.  The idea is that HRG systems inherently limit the energy delivered to a ground fault by limiting the available fault current to just a few amperes, providing a great deal of protection.”

 

Implementing proper arc flash risk mitigation measures is an important thing for any data center to do.  Not only does it significantly reduce the risk of damage to equipment and the likelihood of downtime occurring but it also dramatically reduces the risk of injury to personnel.  OSHA has strict guidelines in place for a reason – to protect worker safety through reasonable safety expectations.  If you do not comply with NFPA 70E guidelines for arc flash protection, you can be cited by OSHA.  Protect your facility, your equipment, your customers, and your personnel from the hazards of arc-flash by calculating your risk of an arc-flash occurring and by implementing proper risk mitigation measures.

 

 

 

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