4 FM quick reads on data centers
1. DCIM Offers Benefits In Legacy Data Centers
This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management magazine. Today's tip is that Data Center Infrastructure Management offers benefits in legacy data centers.
Where there is an existing plant, a middleware DCIM system is ideal. Configured and placed on the Industrial Ethernet or IT network, the object of the system is to listen on the wire for any pre-defined data or receive traps from legacy management/monitoring systems and report or archive accordingly.
The benefits of this type of installation include using existing BMS/BAS/EPMS (emergency power management system) and network management systems and less installation time since the points at the far end are already connected. However, many drawbacks exist. Those drawbacks include: the risk that custom software will be have to be developed to fit existing systems; incomplete data gathering based on the possibility that the building's legacy 'tool' cannot integrate; the potential that staff may tire of the system prior to full implementation and shelve it; concern that the DCIM will be yet another platform to increase operational expenses; and the probability that something on the raised floor will change during DCIM implementation, rendering Day 1 data out of date.
Don't let the drawbacks weigh too heavy, though. Tying existing systems into a central point of collection wisely capitalizes on the existing investment in management systems and enables cross-system data sharing. But be wary when checking into DCIM or middleware. Ask a lot of questions and provide the vendors with a list of the systems for desired integration.
Questions should include the obvious: Can you integrate with everything on my list? What protocols have you successfully integrated with? What systems have you successfully integrated with? Can I use this to tie not only one, but multiple data centers together?
Be prepared for a lot of "vaporware." Middleware and DCIM at this level of integration is an emerging field and vendors will make promises that the next release will contain everything. Don't expect an out-of-box solution from any of them — there are just too many types of systems. Consider creating a bubble diagram that shows the existing systems by manufacturer name and function and reveals any existing relationship between the two, as well as the desired future relationships. This can go a long way toward illustrating the desired equipment.
2. Securing Co-location Data Centers
This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management magazine. Today's tip is that co-location data centers offer unique security challenges.
Co-location data centers provide multiple customers with the ability to locate network, server and storage gear through a shared infrastructure, minimizing both capital and operational costs for users. With a number of tenants in a variety of space configurations, co-location data centers face a unique infrastructure security challenge. Because co-location data centers can be typically subdivided by cages or just by individual cabinets or IT racks, electronic access control is key.
Cages should be treated as rooms, with locks so that air conditioning is the only element shared. Tenants should gain access only to their own cage through an active card reader or similar equipment at the cage itself. For smaller clients that want just a cabinet or two, specify access control down to the cabinet level to provide individual access. This will allow security personnel to track who is in each space moment-to-moment. For example, if there are five clients in one area serving different racks, tracking who was where when something goes down will be streamlined.
Similarly, monitoring can be another function of the access control system in a co-lo data center. Personnel can monitor access to cages, cabinets and racks to determine who is in the building, which tenants have their doors open, closed, etc. By having a dedicated security IP network, the security team can maintain tight control over security communications and allow for 24/7/365 operation, which can be a great selling point to prospective tenants.
3. Data Center Infrastructure Management helps streamline operations
This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management magazine. Today's tip is that data center infrastructure management helps streamline the management of data centers.
Asking five data center managers how to manage a data center from a technology perspective — software, remotely and integrated — would likely yield at least eight different answers. The same question posed to a data center's facilities department would generate equally disparate responses. Ask that same question of a data center IT manager and a data center facilities manager at the same time and watch the fireworks fly. Why? Data centers are not managed by one group or department. While there is a larger goal in meeting the overall objectives of the company, the various departments often act as autonomous collectives. Data centers, however, are not owned by departments but by companies, and managing one should be a joint corporate effort.
Today, data centers can be managed as a total enterprise using data center infrastructure management (DCIM), or a "middleware," a software/hardware component which can tie formerly or currently different systems into a congruent monitoring environment. These dissimilar systems are often "owned" by different responsible departments. However, these systems can be configured to report up one chain of event and alert management.
The benefits of a good DCIM/middleware solution include faster change control; better, more coordinated, change management; views into the electrical and HVAC systems in reference to information and communications technology; views into IT and facility asset management; space planning; and general building environmental monitoring. It is important for facility managers to keep in mind when selecting a DCIM or middleware solution that because DCIM and middleware integrates independent systems beyond facilities, there is no means to discuss DCIM without concepts of an integration with the facility's systems.
Should the IT department be looking into DCIM, they would naturally focus on typical network management systems providers for a solution. Likewise, should DCIM be facilities-driven, traditional manufacturers of building systems can provide DCIM predicated on those building systems. However, with the high costs associated with DCIM procurement, installation and operations, it will make sense to view DCIM at the enterprise level and find a solution that works for each.
4. UPS Systems, DC Power Can Solve Energy Issues
This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management magazine. Today's tip is that energy-saving UPS systems and DC power can help solve energy issues in data centers.
New UPS systems and high-voltage power supply are the two major trends in infrastructure design and engineering to reduce power consumption. DC power is a rare solution in the United States today, but worth considering the potential benefits and risks to save energy.
Manufacturers have modified the designs of new UPS systems with an "energy-saver" operating mode, which increases their power efficiency by approximately 90 percent while operating at any load. Owners have been cautious to adopt this new operating mode until the new systems prove themselves, but more owners are willing to consider it today.
Operating a UPS in energy-saver mode has clear advantages over the conventional operating mode of older UPS systems, whose efficiency falls into the 30 to 40 percent range at low loads. Even as the load increases on an older unit, it never achieves a higher efficiency level than about 80 percent.
High-voltage power supply is an effective way to cut capital costs and power requirements, and it is an idea whose time has finally come. Running at higher voltages not only reduces the capital cost of wiring as the system uses fewer, smaller wires, but at higher voltages, the current is lower, so less energy is lost through the wire. One downside is the fact that high-voltage computer equipment is still a custom order even though it is more available.
Running a data center on DC power saves energy by reducing the energy losses associated with the number of power conversions typically required in a conventional data center. Energy is lost at each conversion, making this approach less efficient than a DC system, which efficiently converts AC to DC once at high voltage and then distributes it to the computer's power supply.