Meeting the data centre challenges of today can be a struggle as an increase in data requires ever expanding capacity. Colin Dean, Managing Director, Socomec UK, discusses the ways we can master energy monitoring and consumption to ultimately protect data centres and enhance their reliability.
The safeguarding of our data centres is more critical than ever as they provide the backbone for our most vital healthcare, industrial and communications facilities for every nation.
With unprecedented volumes of online traffic and record-levels of data throughput, the careful management and mastery of our digital infrastructure can provide organisations with critical visibility and reliability – protecting against the downtime that we simply cannot afford.
Greater granularity, increased functionality, informed corrective actions
Granular power monitoring is a must – as not only does it account for all consumption, it breaks that consumption down according to key criteria – making it easy to uncover, analyse and correct problems early on.
Simply relying on general data is not enough to support informed decision making or activity. By using devices that can harvest more than just the very basic energy readings, valuable preventive and corrective action can be taken that is rooted in robust information. By measuring harmonics and imbalance, weak points can be identified, preventing the constant deterioration of equipment and optimising maintenance operations.
The monitoring of each individual protective device (on / off / trip) allows the user to perform a rapid reset in the event of a trip, minimising downtime and the direct and indirect cost associated with any loss of uptime. Whether associated with productivity losses, revenue losses, longer term customer attrition, system recovery costs or the long-term impact of reputational damage, the total cost of downtime can be financially crippling and life limiting – not an option in the operating context of today’s hard working electrical infrastructures.
Where to start? Manage the metrics
To be clear, implementing a power monitoring system within a facility enables every data centre manager to achieve a real grasp on both how much energy is entering via the mains as well as how much energy is being consumed – with that consumption broken down by each piece of equipment.
The wider impact of mastering energy monitoring means that because consumption can be broken down, it’s possible to identify tangible cost- saving opportunities that will result in a reduction in monthly utility billing.
What’s the role of Power Usage Effectiveness?
Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) – the industry-accepted energy efficiency metric as defined by ISO / IEC 30134-2:2016 (standard information technology – data) – enables the energy efficiency of a data centre to be tracked and measured.
As a key performance indicator, PUE considers the ratio of the data centre’s total power consumption to the power consumption of IT. The closer to 1 that the PUE is, the more efficient the facility, indicating that most of the power consumed is supporting IT servers.
In the evolution of PUE, it’s important to correlate with power quality and environmental factors; for example, a lower PUE in winter is considered to be normal as a result of the season’s low temperatures. For the most accurate results, the measurement of PUE by area or application must be conducted as close to the final IT loads as possible in order to help best understand where changes need to be made as well as where to prioritise resource.
Meeting today’s data centre challenges
While every facility operates within the unique parameters of its own electrical architecture, service continuity is the single most important challenge for all data centres.
The reliability, quality and maintainability of the power supply are key success factors in guaranteeing service. The incoming supply must be continuously monitored in order to detect deviations or abnormal events and to support well-informed decisions about which corrective action to pursue. Continuous monitoring is a preventative measure when it comes to the premature ageing of the electrical installation or equipment – this also optimises costs and avoids data losses.
How are Power Quality Meters playing a vital role?
Power Quality Meters (PQM) – with the implementation of real time alerts – enable the health of the electrical distribution to be monitored and to detect drifts in measurements, optimising power availability, guaranteeing continuity and protecting critical assets.
In terms of efficiency, by managing IT and cooling equipment more effectively, it is possible to reduce energy consumption and adapt the power demand to actual requirements significantly when it’s considered that cooling can represent up to 40% of the total energy used to operate a data centre.
As the facility expands, the use of permanent power monitoring to collect real time data provides accurate visibility in terms of overall capacity, making it simple to add equipment without changing the power distribution architecture, or upgrading cooling systems, for example.
By measuring more accurately through branch-circuit monitoring and guaranteeing fluctuations at a very low load current – rather than using less reliable standard revenue grade meters – the power usage of individual tenants, for example, can be invoiced fairly and accurately at rack level.
Why every data centre needs Power Quality Meters (PQM)
In order to ensure continuity, it’s absolutely vital to manage reliability, quality and maintainability. The incoming supply must be rigorously monitored – continuously – in order to detect deviations or abnormal events but not only to detect those events, to also effectively buy time to make informed decisions and take the right kind of corrective actions.
In practical terms, PQM systems enable the evaluation of responsibilities in the event of power quality events. Most utilities must comply with EN50160 in order to guarantee the best possible service to their customers. The standard sets minimum power quality levels which means that a PQM is able to create EN50160 compliant reports that provide proof to the utility.
Power Quality Meters ensure that it is safe for IT equipment to use UPS equipment in offline mode. For energy efficiency and cost reasons, many data centres are using offline UPS equipment which does not isolate the load from the supply voltage, meaning that in turn, that upstream pollution could damage and shorten the equipment lifespan.
PQMs will also monitor the quality of renewable energy production equipment – particularly important in terms of managing voltage variations, frequency fluctuations and harmonics pollution.
Stay safe, stay smart, stay connected
For smart and connected energy management, it is now possible to more precisely monitor protective devices – remotely and in real time – across the entire electrical installation. The latest metering and monitoring solutions guarantee the availability and safety of the electrical installation, while also monitoring performance, checking power quality and managing loads. One such system is Socomec’s Diris Q800 which has been engineered for industry-leading accuracy and designed for ease of use, this is just one solution that can address this issue.
Maintaining service continuity
By fitting permanent power quality monitoring systems, it is possible to monitor and manage the reliability, efficiency and safety of an organisation’s electrical system in real time. Data is collected and analysed in order to diagnose problems, identify deterioration in performance and highlight areas of risk – as well as locating the causes of electrical disturbances.
In an environment that demands watertight preparedness planning and with zero margin for error, taking an integrated approach to service continuity and mastering monitoring has never been more important.