As those experienced in data center installation and operation know, backup power is not only beneficial, it’s essential.
“Backup power is absolutely essential,” advise Lenny Chesal and Daniel Calderon of Host.net. “As to the important aspect of maintenance, all of it is essential. The center should have access to gear, the ability to replace equipment once a facility is built, and the ability to add or remove equipment without disrupting business or uptime at the center.”
Host.net is a Florida-based data center and network infrastructure services provider. The company reminded us last summer that it has a full suite of business continuity services for the hurricane season and other business interruption scenarios. Host.net operates secure, geographically dispersed data centers (including roof systems in Florida built to withstand winds of up to 225 mph) that allow clients to move their mission-critical infrastructure and data out of harm’s way.
One customer is MTI, a provider of nationwide ancillary services in the workers’ compensation industry, including transportation, translations, air ambulance, home health care, durable medical equipment, diagnostics, and home and vehicle modifications.
“We’re a nationwide company with a comprehensive business continuity plan, and Host.net is an integral part of the plan,” says Seth Hirsh, Director of Information Technology (IT) for MTI. “This enables us to provide seamless, uninterrupted service to all of our customers 24/7/365.”
“If a business is running mission-critical applications in a data center, then backup power is essential,” comments Pamela Brigham, Global Technology Director, IBX Electrical Systems at Equinix. “A perfect example of when backup power for data centers became essential is the recent rolling blackouts in Texas due to extreme weather. Not having the backup can result in anywhere from minutes to hours of downtime for a business and, potentially, for its customers.”
Kris Domich agrees. With 14 years of experience globally in technical consulting, Domich is currently Principal Consultant and National Principal of Data Center Solutions for Dimension Data North American Mid-Atlantic Region.
“Backup power for data centers is essential,” he advises. “In a mission-critical environment where access to services and information must be non-stop or, at a minimum, can only tolerate brief outages, backup power should consist of a UPS [Uninterruptible Power Supply, battery or flywheel], an auxiliary generation source [generator], and an automatic mechanism to switch between commercial and onsite power sources [Automatic Transfer Switch]. This combination ensures that equipment will not experience even a momentary outage while the generation source comes online.
“In a case where the business can tolerate some outages due to power, it is still important to have at least a UPS in place to give operators enough time to bring systems down gracefully,” he continues. “This will minimize chances of data corruption commonly caused when systems are turned off abruptly.”
Always prominent in the discussion of data centers is the topic of cooling. It’s one of the main reasons that backup is essential; we all know how heat gains deadly momentum as soon as the cooling is lost.
“A redundant architecture [N+1 or better] is critical,” observes Mike Duckett, President and Chief Operating Officer of CoreLink Data Centers. “Backup power is critical to ensure that a customer’s systems and applications continue to operate during utility power outages. The diversity and related redundant backup power design for a data center [along with cooling and connectivity] is the biggest difference between a facility designed to be a data center versus a standard office space as a data center.”
CoreLink is a leading collocation provider of critical infrastructure services. By leveraging data centers in Chicago, IL; Phoenix, AZ; Las Vegas, NV; and Seattle, WA, with access to a massive and diverse network connectivity, CoreLink delivers small, medium, and large enterprise customers and service providers high-quality, agile data center services. A little earlier this year the company announced a multi-year extension of its contract with Getty Images.
“It was an easy choice to renew our arrangement with CoreLink Data Centers,” comments Mark King, vice president of technology at Getty Images. “It has distinguished itself over the course of our relationship with its outstanding model of strong customer service based on flexibility and transparency.”
“The level of ‘critical’ for backup power may depend on the level of availability requires from a particular location,” notes Steve Suesens, Category Manager for Staples Advantage Inc., a division of Staples Inc. that serves organizations of 20 employees or more, including global businesses; local, state, and federal government; healthcare organizations; and educational institutions.
“These levels of uptime can vary dramatically, depending on what impact an outage will have on business operations. In some case, an outage can mean nothing more than a hot failover to a redundant location, and in other cases it can mean millions of dollars an hour in lost revenue,” adds Suesens. “By evaluating the impact of outages in a particular location, customers can make the determination that backup power is necessary to their company’s infrastructure requirements.”
Suesens also pointed out that, while green initiatives have taken the forefront of data center discussions, it is still very important to remember that core values of many data centers throughout the country are still uptime, reliability, and sustainability. “Maintaining these values is of key importance and that maintaining can still keep a green focus in the process,” he says. “Whether the data center is using a generator in combination with UPS battery [to account for transfer time to generator] or using a combination of a second power feed and generator, these methods can still be very effective in maintaining data center uptime during a power outage.”
Cool it, please!
“Much like power, cooling systems fail, and dynamic failover to redundant systems is imperative,” advises Duckett. “For power, generator and UPS backup is crucial as utility power will fail even if you have two separate utility feeds.”
“Ask anyone who lived through the Northeast US blackout a few years ago,” he continues. “In addition, backup power infrastructure [generators and UPS] may also fail, so ensuring the backup power infrastructure is redundant becomes equally important.”
To coincide with the redundant infrastructure, customers should leverage redundant power feeds to their systems infrastructure as well, says Duckett, in order to protect against primary power circuit failure at the branch circuit level.
As for the cooling, he says “average-temperature conditions in a data center cause approximately the same amount of impact every year in the data center environment as power failures. Efficiency is the key. Cooling technology is one of the fastest evolving technologies in the industry. Newer technology is more efficient and more reliable. Leveraging the newer technology will result in lower operating costs without sacrificing reliability.”
“It is critical that the equipment in the data center is kept within manufacturers’ specifications,” warns Pamela Brigham of Equinix. “To do this, the cooling technology is required. There are many options available today for cooling in the data center, everything from hot or cold aisle containments to cabinet rear door cooling to traditional overhead or raised floor cooling. The cooling used can be dictated by the power requirements [and backup power] of your equipment. It has been found that close-coupled cooling—getting the cooling as close to the heat source as possible—is among the most efficient.”
Tech Vault Inc. has garnered praise and admiration for its data center in Vermont’s Champlain Valley. The simple philosophy of “Heat only what you need to heat, cool only what you need to cool, and light only what you need to light” brings a new generation of data centers facilities. Tech Vault will attain Green Building Council Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification! Schneider Electric’s APC brand solutions in the success of this installation, including InRow cooling, Symmetra UPS, and InRow Remote Power Modules, all to improve energy-efficient delivery of power to the data center.
“We pursued Schneider Electric initially because of their industry leading cooling technology offerings from APC,” comments Bob Stewart, Vice President of IT for Tech Vault. “APC opened the door to Schneider Electric as a complete energy solution provide for our data center. The facility soup-to-nuts is a Schneider Electric house. After a year of planning and design collaboration with the Schneider Electric team, we began construction of the facility. Within four months we completed the full installation, enabling us to open on time.”
“Data centers use significant amounts of energy for daily operation, especially when it comes to cooling the massive computer servers needed to process the data in such an environment,” points out Rob McKernan, President, Americas Region, IT Business, Schneider Electric. “By leveraging Schneider Electric’s full range of energy-efficient solutions, Tech Vault can now offer companies a safe, reliable, and energy-efficient environment, a critical combination for companies with data hosting or disaster recovery computing needs.”
Stewart adds, “Schneider Electric has been a true partner in this project. They were involved with some of our earliest discussions around data center design layouts. With the energy saving solutions from Schneider Electric, we can provide additional value to our customers by providing that safe, reliable, energy-efficient location to house their critical IT networks.”
“Cooling technology is critical to a data center because, without the proper amount of it, equipment cannot function, will overheat, and, in some cases, may catch fire,” says Domich. “Cooling must be as reliable as the power distribution system and should also be designed to scale in concert with power consumption. Put another way, the use of power should be limited to the amount you can adequately cool. This does not suggest that one should significantly overcool the data center! That practice is expensive and unnecessary. Instead, be sure to design the cooling system to scale based on load.”
Sometimes it’s a simple component that enables a cooling system to be more efficient. At the beginning of this year, Emerson Network Power reported that it had extended electrically commutated (EC) plug fans to all down-flow models of its Liebert CW and Liebert DS precision cooling systems to allow data centers of all sizes to adjust cooling unit capacities automatically to match the IT server demands and improve energy savings and Power Usage Effectiveness. EC plug fans are a backward-curved motorized impeller powered by a direct drive, direct current (DC) motor with integrated alternate current (AC)–DC conversion. Emerson Network Power’s use of this technology allows the fan assembly to be lowered below the raised floor rather than remaining in its shipment configuration of being within the unit. This lowered condition reduces the energy consumption of the fan system an addition 10% (by eliminating internal system losses).
Uninterrupted for Constant Uptime
The Green Data Center, one of the world’s most efficient and green data centers, is at Syracuse University in New York State. The 12,000-square-foot facility is designed to use 50% less energy and produce fewer greenhouse gases than traditional data centers. The secret to the facility’s energy savings lies in the 12 patented Hybrid UPS MicroTurbines from Capstone Turbine Corp. Capstone’s Hybrid UPS is the first onsite power system to integrate clean-and-green C65 (65-kW) microturbines directly with dual-conversion UPS to provide mission-critical loads. There is a combined cooling, heating, and power (CCHP) system that further enhances the center’s energy efficiency. The natural gas microturbines produce electricity and supply heat and cooling power to the data center and a nearby building. IBM was a major partner in this project, providing design services, support, and equipment, including “cooling doors” that use chilled water to cool each server rack independent of its neighbors (which also reduces cooling and energy costs).
“Syracuse University will be the first university data center powered by onsite generation in New York State,” comments Francis J. Murray Jr., president and CEO of New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). “It will showcase the substantial energy and environmental benefits of combined heat and power.”
“This sort of project inspires others to evaluate, design, and employ green technology,” adds New York State Assemblyman, William B. Magnarelli (D-Syracuse).
At the other end of the country, in downtown Houston, TX, six Capstone C60 MicroTurbines on top of a parking structure assure power security for the data center of one of the world’s most renowned engineering and construction companies. And, just a few miles southeast of the city center, the Boeing Company uses a Capstone microturbine at all times as the prime power source for its data/telecom systems, with the utility grid serving as the backup source.
According to Beau Follis, Capstone sales consultant on the UPSource product, Capstone’s UPSource Secure Power was specifically designed and configured for the Tier II–IV data center market as a prime IT power source. Previous options for customers were redundant “big box” UPS systems and large diesel generators for extended power outages. These systems may include hundreds of batteries and weigh thousands of pounds and present data centers with the problem (and cost!) of disposing properly of thousands of tons of waste lead, copper, and battery acids.
Secure Power can also help reduce operating costs, adds Darren Jamison, President and CEO of Capstone. “Cost savings come from Secure Power’s extremely low maintenance and operational costs. Natural gas is less expensive to use in day-to-day operations than utility electricity, and Secure Power’s 100% uptime means more production time.
Immediately obvious features of Server Farm Realty’s new data center (26,000 square feet) in Santa Clara, CA, are the extremely low PUE (power usage effectiveness) ratios, with an average of 1.3 PUE. “While Silicon Valley is home for many data centers, there remains a high level of unmet demand,” notes Avner Papouchado, President and CEO of Server Farm Realty (SFR).
“By offering LEED Silver certification and top-of-the-line energy efficiency, our data center delivers a level of reliability, sustainability, and cost savings that has not been available,” adds Papouchado.
The computing floor in the data center, which is 13,000 square-feet, is designed to be concurrently maintainable with Tier III infrastructure and N+1 redundancy. The UPS system and switch gear bus/lineups are located in separate, fire rated rooms protected by Hi-Fog, a fine water misting system designed to prevent extensive damage in the case of fire.
“Hi-Fog uses 90% less water, penetrates to the seat of the fire faster, causes the fire to burn at lower temperatures, and eliminates cross-lineup water contamination,” explains Robert Glavan, SFR vice president of data center operations. “The result is another layer of protection for our clients’ data.”
SFR is also expanding to Chicago with the purchase of 840 S. Canal Street. The year-end transaction of the eight-story 443,446-square-foot building will be one of the largest data center developments in the Midwest. Backup for this large data center? The facility will feature 3.6 MW of critical load on each of its five data center floors with an N+1 concurrently maintainable electrical infrastructure powered by 20, 2.5-MW generators housed in a dedicated exterior building.
Data centers may have become one of the most active and vibrant sectors of industry, and they embrace customers with an almost universal range of products and services. They are not limited to one area of the country, but they do demand certain fundamental strengths in their design and installation. Firstly, it is clear that there must be backup power for all the equipment. Of all industrial sectors, data centers must rank high among those that cannot afford to fail for an hour, a day, or even for much less time. Along with that guarantee of continuous performance, the centers will prosper on features that are under the umbrella of scalability, modularity, connectivity, and reliability. But the greatest of these is uninterrupted power.
Author's Bio: Paul Hull is a frequent contributor to Forester Media publications.
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