14 February 2014
Marco da Silva, MD of Jasco Power Solutions
If the data centre of a financial service provider
goes down due to a power glitch, the impact is significant – there’s potential
damage to equipment, applications and systems. However, the greater impact
includes downtime, business loss and damage to customer relationships. Speed
and cost of recovery, and limiting damage sustained, will depend on the power
management system in place. Clean and constant power is critical. To get it
right a number of issues must be taken into consideration.
A data centre typically houses the ICT infrastructure
of a business. It is the nerve centre of the business where multiple cabinets
of ICT equipment enable communication, transactions and myriad other business
processes, and precious business data is stored and retrieved. A power outage,
poor or dirty power supply, or a power anomaly such as a surge or lightning
strike, can wreak havoc with sensitive systems. Protection is vital, but so is
ensuring suitable recovery and business continuity.
quality and assurance – the practical considerations
Much will depend on the risk appetite of the business,
i.e., how much data can they afford to lose or is instant failover (100 percent
up time) required. Depending on the challenges faced in the environment and the
sensitivity of equipment, a number of technologies can be applied to drive
power quality, from voltage stabilisation, galvanic isolation of the power
supply to transient absorption and harmonic filtration.
Practical considerations must also be factored in.
Besides system downtime, loss of power may mean cooling equipment is switched
off, putting ICT equipment at risk of overheating or suffering damage as a
result of rising humidity. The result may be loss of system performance or
operational integrity, resulting in unacceptable times to recovery. In
addition, when power is restored and systems start up, there is generally a
power spike to deal with.
While a branded off-the-shelf solution, such as a UPS,
can provide a part of the answer, a customised solution that meets the
requirements of a specific environment will deliver better odds. A tailored
solution will address failover in terms of speed and capacity, but also ensure
power quality. Such a solution may include installation of voltage stabilisers,
UPS’, inverters, surge and lightning protection, transformers and/or power
supplies. It will certainly require careful assessment of loads, identification
of mission critical systems and sensitive equipment, testing and refining of
power quality, and ensuring suitable cooling and distribution of power in terms
of the feed to the UPS. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment is
usually powered separately given the huge inrush current on this equipment.
These loads are typically run of a generator.
modular, hot swappable
In terms of advancements in system design, power
management solutions are getting smaller and modular solutions are providing
additional benefits. Space is at a premium in data centres and the traditional
requirement for failover specifies replication of a UPS or power management
system (N+1). New solutions that allow single modular scalable systems for
failover within the same frame, minimise the footprint of solutions.
Modular system designs make almost any configuration
possible, while the hot swapability of components within these systems drive
mean time to repair, replacement, and ultimately recovery and failover. Good
advice is to ensure the solution provider holds sufficient stock to ensure
immediate replacement of key components.
Other considerations are energy efficiency, the
addition of environmental monitoring to the solution and use of embedded Web
servers which will allow the power management solution to be accessed from a
remote location. The latter also facilitates monitoring of equipment by the
service provider if desired.
Maintenance of these systems is crucial. A rule of
thumb is to service UPS’ twice a year, testing for electrical or battery integrity.
of experience, engineering capability – a winning combination
While there are a number of proven and recognised UPS
brands available to select from, the majority are only available in standard
configurations. They cannot be customised. Resellers of these solutions are
also usually not capable of putting together or advising on the design of
complex, multi-component tailored solutions. A solution provider with the right
experience and capabilities will be able to identify challenges and potential
complexities and develop a suitable solution.
In selecting a provider, identify companies that have
strong engineering capabilities, broad experience and a solid track record in
designing and building bespoke solutions. For quality assurance, ensure that a
manufactured solution is accompanied by an ISO 9001/2008 rating.