Dec 06 2010

Energy Management Enablers

Software that taps PDUs and UPSes to monitor power consumption helps state and local government data center managers keep tabs on energy use and better manage the devices.

January 2011 E-newsletter

City Manages Power Needs

Software to Monitor Energy Use

Calculate PUE

Review: Raritan Power IQ

Cooling Techniques Boost Efficiency

It takes a lot of energy to power the 5,225-square-foot data center that serves King County, the largest county in Washington and the 14th most populous in the country.

The data center currently uses 190kW on average for its IT load and approximately 266kW total for IT load plus cooling, giving it a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) rating of 1.41. To distribute power to the IT gear, King County purchased 200 Raritan Computer power distribution units two years ago to install in its server cabinets. Rick Gideon, data center facilities engineer, uses Raritan's Power IQ energy management software to centrally manage the PDUs.

As the movement toward energy efficiency in the data center evolves, IT departments are finding tools that give them more granular control over energy use and related costs. Power management software for uninterruptible power supply systems and PDUs from companies such as APC, Eaton, Raritan and Tripp Lite can determine how much energy is being consumed by attached devices, as well as provide remote monitoring of system health and environmental conditions.

Using power management tools for monitoring data center equipment can help an organization's overall move toward energy efficiency, says Greg Schulz, founder of the Server and StorageIO Group consulting firm.

Schulz dubs the typical lack of attention paid to such tools as the "green gap."

"When I mention green, IT professionals think reduced carbon footprint. They don't equate it to boosting productivity or leveraging power management," he says. "As people realize there's more to green than just CO2 and recycling, that it's also about economic activity and driving productivity, they realize they've been missing out on opportunities."

But that's not the case for King County's Gideon. "The PDUs have a web interface so you can go in and see what each is doing," he explains. "But I've got 200 PDUs at our facilities, so using Power IQ brings all the information into a central location. I can monitor the temperature, humidity, track devices and perform configuration through the software, instead of having to do it individually."

Using Power IQ also lets Gideon trend his overall power usage. He can also establish groups of different departments, determine the energy usage of each department's servers, and use that information for power usage charge-backs, he says.

King County is currently running the demo version of Power IQ, which limits the number of PDUs monitored to five. But Gideon plans to upgrade as soon as possible to the commercial release so he can monitor all of the county's PDUs.

Percentage of IT managers who know what portion of their IT budget is spent on energy, up from 50% in 2009

Source: CDW·G 2010 Energy Efficient IT Report

"Having a central place where you can go and get an overall feel for what's happening in the environment -- the temperature, humidity and power usage -- is always a good thing," Gideon says. "To have insight into the facility allows you to have your fingers on the pulse of what's happening at all times, and if something changes you can react accordingly."

Airport Operations

PDU and UPS software also help IT departments with the general management of these devices. During mission-critical situations, being able to remotely monitor the health of UPS devices can be essential to customer service.

The Raleigh-Durham International Airport has deployed 90 UPSes from Tripp Lite: two at each of the 72 gate locations to back up workstations and printers, and 18 at other areas in the airport, says Randy Thornburg, information systems operations support manager with the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority. "We needed the devices out there at our gates to bridge the gap between [a power outage] and when the emergency generator kicks in, to prevent systems from going offline," says Thornburg. "Interruption of power can last a few seconds, and the PCs would reboot; operations are so critical at the gates that we didn't want systems to go down when flights were boarding."

With Tripp Lite's PowerAlert Network Management software, Thornburg can log in to each unit to check for power outages, determine how long a unit may have been down, and check the battery loads, he says -- all without having to be onsite.

Keeping Power Equipment Efficient

Here are some tips for keeping your PDUs and UPS devices running smoothly:

  • Visually inspect PDUs annually and UPS systems semi-annually for signs of loose connections, burned insulation, corrosion or other wear.
  • Regularly clean and vacuum UPS equipment enclosures.
  • Set power management software to alert when a UPS load approaches 80 percent of maximum capacity, to prevent the system from going into unplanned bypass.
  • Use power management software to push firmware and other updates to PDUs.
  • Make sure there is adequate ventilation to keep power equipment at the operating temperature range specified by the manufacturer; install dedicated air conditioning if necessary.