Questions to Ask Before Selecting Power Solutions for Midsize IT Applications

David Sonner, Vice President Marketing,
Liebert AC Power at Emerson Network Power

For midsize power applications, the challenges of powering data centers and remote IT facilities are many. The key to overcoming these challenges is having fast solutions that deliver lower first costs and ongoing operational savings, while offering the flexibility required in todayís dynamic IT environments. The best power solutions meet requirements for:

  • Cost Control/Efficiency: The ability to accurately predict and manage infrastructure costs reduces the difficulty of predicting and managing costs in IT organizations that must continually adjust to escalating user and application demands.
  • Resiliency: Availability of critical IT applications is required to meet business demands for anywhere, anytime IT.
  • Intelligence/Visibility: Power system connectivity and controls let you acquire actionable data to optimize power performance and reduce burden on local management staff.
  • System Flexibility and Rapid Deployment: Flexible, rapidly deployed power systems satisfy the need to grow quickly, easily and cost-effectively.

Asking yourself the following questions will help you select a power solution for midsize IT applications that meets these requirements.

1. What technologies will help me better manage and predict power infrastructure costs?
Power systems are available that meet midsize IT budgets, but the outdated or ineffective power systems found in many facilities drive energy costs up. If your UPS only meets the average efficiency of 86.6 percent, consider deploying a highly efficient UPS system that achieves 94-95 percent efficiency and that is Energy Star qualified. At electricity costs of $0.10/kWh, this can save $1,000 annually per 100 kW for every efficiency point gained. So, for example, going from an 87 percent efficient 100 kW UPS to a 94 percent efficient UPS of the same size generates savings of $7,000 a year.

Additionally, new UPS technologies with flexible power hardware assemblies allow you to plan for and manage future costs by providing a simple, predictable expansion path. Other efficient UPS designs that offer the greatest advantages for midsize data centers and give you the most for your money include:

  • Pre-engineered systems that save installation costs and are easily deployed
  • Small form-factor units that take up less room, or scale up instead of out, preserve valuable facility space
  • High power factors ensure more power is provided in a smaller footprint, thus increasing system capacity while minimizing cabling and installation costs
  • Replacing older systems also minimizes the likelihood of age-related equipment failure and the associated costs

2. How can I ensure critical IT applications are always available to my organization?
As business demands escalate, your IT systems are seen as growth enablers – as long as they are available to feed the need for 24×7 access to information. So, itís not surprising that a recent Data Center Usersí Group (DCUG)* survey found that availability is the number two concern (behind energy efficiency) for facilities under 5,000 square feet.

In a nutshell, uptime comes from knowing that most unplanned downtime can be prevented and then deploying the right technologies to do the job.

For instance, the on-line, double conversion design delivers the most reliable power and highest uptime levels of any UPS design. UPS systems with fault tolerance capabilities can withstand internal power module failures and still support a partial load without going to bypass. Also look for power infrastructure technology that can be configured to provide the redundancy your facility needs by providing cost-effective redundant capacity.

Additionally, battery quality is key to availability. In the 2013 Ponemon Study on Data Center Outages, system batteries were identified as the weakest link in the power chain. One problem is that batteries may not last as long as their rated service life, which makes it important to use a battery monitoring system so battery health can be predicted and proactively managed, as well as remotely monitored and supported by services such as emergency dispatch.


3. †Will my data center operations benefit enough from better power system visibility to justify the cost?
Lack of visibility into power system performance can lead to costly mistakes, such as not recognizing a failing battery, and lost business productivity from dealing with power-related equipment problems and the resulting downtime. Visibility provides intelligence, which leads to better management and control.

There are a variety of ways to increase power system visibility. Just be sure the power systems you evaluate have or can be integrated with the type of monitoring, management or control that best suits your business.

You can use battery monitoring software that offers real-time system and component level visibility by providing information on the health of the battery system. A UPS with a user-friendly display panel that intuitively walks users through commands and shows battery status reduces the likelihood of human error. To gain comprehensive management intelligence, look at the DCIM solutions that provide a fully integrated view of your operations across both IT and facilities resources, enabling you to make better capacity management decisions, and save time and costs.

Another option is to engage a service to remotely monitor the power infrastructure and take corrective actions when required. This is a good solution for organizations that donít have staff resources to devote to monitoring the critical power infrastructure and where the risk of human error is high.

4. How can I improve system flexibility and accelerate deployment?
Today, organizations need applications and systems to be up and running quickly to meet business demands. And, when you expand capabilities you may also need to add, update or modify power infrastructure to support changing IT systems.

Some new technologies simplify and speed the process of deployment and making changes. Look for power systems with a flexible design that can meet future capacity or redundancy demands, such as systems with a modular design or scalable platform that can be delivered and installed conveniently.

5. What should I look for in an IT and communications power solutions vendor?
When selecting a vendor, consider the breadth of the product line. There are a number of variables that can determine the right solution for a particular application and having a wide range of solutions allows the vendor to match the power system to the application rather than forcing a solution that isnít optimum. Also, consider experience. A critical power system vendor should understand the specific requirements of IT and communications systems and the entire power chain, from utility to UPS, switches and PDUs. Finally, look for a vendor with a robust service offering and an organization to back it up, including factory-trained local partners. Regular preventive maintenance is required to keep systems in peak operating condition and fast emergency response, if it is ever needed, can mean the difference between dealing with a situation and dealing with a crisis.

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