As government and commercial organizations seek to ‘green’ their business-critical operations with the latest high density, lower energy demand servers, they must ensure that they don’t compromise their resilience of those systems by asking too much of their data centres’ backup power systems.
The warning comes from on365.co.uk, a specialist in the planning, installing, management and optimisation of physical IT infrastructure and utility services. The company says that the latest servers and storage equipment are actually placing unprecedented strain on the data centres’ standard Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) and backup generator systems – the units that maintain continuous operations in an emergency or power outage.
On365.co.uk says that existing UPS equipment, originally designed to supply for example 100kW of power, is now more likely to fail and disconnect itself at 80kW or less when powering such new, so-called ‘greener’ IT equipment. The start-up power needs of new equipment can also outstrip the capacity of older data centre power supplies – even though on paper they can actually run the devices.
On365.co.uk director Chris Smith said: “Organisations that fail to address this hidden but critical mismatch in ‘power factor correction’ could inadvertently be undermining the capability of their data centre to withstand power grid difficulties. Modern IT hardware relies on a “clean” and secure power supply, having no power protection exposes the hardware, and business, to an increased risk of shut down or damage from power disturbances. Infrastructure experts are starting to see the first instances of what were initially unexplained failures of hitherto robust and proven UPS in data centres.”
The company says that the problem stems from three main factors: the huge expectations being placed on 21st century organisations’ IT, the way that many data centres are configured, and the gathering environmental agenda.
First, computing development has traditionally been about providing more computing power and performance. IT departments have been told to add more capacity to provide ‘always on’ business applications, leading to bigger servers, more storage and powerful cooling systems all requiring additional power.
Second, data centres may be duplicated at multiple locations for business continuity, or are sprawling estates that have grown massively to meet demand. They may also be co-located and run by third parties, maintained by outside infrastructure specialists, all of whom must support the IT department. Ordering an ‘about turn’ to deliver green IT for a government department or a PCT thus needs input from many specialists.
Third, the climate change debate has caused further disruption to business strategies. As critics have suggested that IT operations have similar levels of carbon emissions to aviation, the IT supply industry and its users have had to reverse their power consumption habits - while still meeting the 99.9999% service expectations of the online user.
Chris Smith of on365.co.uk commented: “Everyone appreciates the need for energy efficient operations but changing the demands on data centre infrastructures must form a central part of any organisation’s risk management - whether it adopts a declared green IT strategy or not.
“Organisations must therefore engage with their data centre providers and infrastructure specialists to examine the operational requirements and power demands on datacenters to identify the critical pressure points and risk factors. Enabling issues such as power factor correction have to be recognised and effectively managed while supporting the overall IT strategy.
“As investment in more energy-efficient operations is approved and existing data centres gradually become rows of high density servers and storage arrays, data centre UPS and generator protection will require regular risk assessment and performance testing - and where necessary – certification that they are fit for purpose, to avert this issue.”
on365.co.uk is a specialist in the planning, installing, management and optimisation of physical IT infrastructure and utility services, from the desktop to server rooms to data centres. Its comprehensive IT support capabilities encompass installation, system testing, network integration, on-site maintenance and audit/review services. It has clients across the UK financial, telecommunications, utility, transport and leisure sectors.