Governments Get a Handle on Power and Cooling

IT managers say effective power and cooling management increases uptime and reduces utility costs.

Tim Ullman, information systems director for Door County, Wis., has a vision for where he wants to take power and cooling.

Door County deployed Emerson Network Power’s Liebert in-row cooling system earlier this year to more effectively manage the heat emanating from the server racks in its main data center. The data room was divided into a hot aisle/cold aisle configuration. “The Liebert units focus on cooling the hot air coming from the back of the machines and recycling it as cool air to the front,” Ullman says.

The IT staff integrated the new cooling system with an enterprise building management system that notifies the staff of any problems. “We’re not quite there yet with our automated notification system, but once we are fully up and running, my goal is to offload the management of the building UPS, the generator and HVAC systems to the county’s maintenance staff,” Ullman notes.

Until the past few months, the county didn’t manage power and cooling in a systematic way — it just cooled the room with traditional air conditioning. Ullman hopes that once the maintenance department assumes responsibility for power and cooling function, he can focus more on IT projects for the 500-node network and less on HVAC projects.

David Cappuccio, a managing vice president for Gartner and chief of research for the infrastructure teams, says more government organizations like Door County are moving to in-row cooling. “The idea is to bring the solution to the problem,” he says. “Why cool the entire room when you can focus on cooling the equipment where the heat is coming from? We’ve seen organizations reduce their power and cooling costs by as much as 30 percent.”

Another Approach

Alameda County, Calif., has a multipronged method for managing power and cooling, according to Jason Perez, deputy director of the IT department.

As the IT group grew to become a service bureau for more than 30 county agencies and 9,000 users, it enhanced the data center at the county’s administration building, adding an 80-ton chiller as well as a redundant 110-ton chiller. The county also has taken very specific steps to more effectively manage the heat generated by servers and switches.

Perez also uses blanking panels from APC to keep cool air in the server racks, noting that the panels are an inexpensive addition to the county’s overall environmental approach. “Standing alone, the blanking panels have a small impact, but cumulatively, added over rows and rows of racks, the difference is measurable,” he says.

Other power and cooling techniques include having cool air from the air-conditioning system come up through a raised floor, along with making sure the switches have fans that flow air from front to back. “The older fans used to flow air side to side, which meant the air would blow either back on to the rack or over to the next rack,” Perez explains. “Fans that flow front to back keep the cool air in and let the hot air flow out.”

The county also uses APC smart power distribution units that send alerts when the system uses excessive power or when switches or servers are about to fail, as well as uninterruptible power supplies for backup power. Overall, the county has reduced the temperature in its main data center from 74 degrees to 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

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May 13 2014