Power System Protection Through Monitoring and Remote Services Improves Availability

Frank Bibens, President
Emerson Network Power, Global Services

For five of the past seven years, availability has been one of the top three infrastructure concerns for data center, IT and facility managers according to biannual surveys of the Data Center Users’ Group (DCUG), and that concern is likely to remain.

FrankBibensAs a global services organization, we see how the need for more information is impacting data centers. Just the sheer volume of data that is currently being generated is astounding, and more and more of our customers need assurance that they will be able to access and use that data. Availability of critical infrastructure is essential to our customers’ businesses. In fact, many data centers support revenue-generating operations as seen in financial services or e-commerce sectors, both of which are growing and require customer confidence. For these types of organizations, downtime is not an option.

Data center availability depends on a foundation of power and that power is protected by the uninterruptible power supply (UPS). However, it’s important to remember that a UPS is only as reliable as its batteries and ignorance regarding degradation or true service life is no longer acceptable for high-demand businesses. Gone are the days of installing new UPS batteries, ignoring them and expecting them to last for 10 to 15 years. One bad cell in a string of batteries is enough to compromise an entire backup system and leave an organization without protection.

For this reason, we anticipate that customers will want more insight into their infrastructure and will need to better understand how all the conditions within a data center can impact the service life of UPS batteries. They will continue to seek end-to-end data center infrastructure management expertise from a trusted advisor.

As one such advisor, Emerson Network Power encourages customers to be proactive regarding battery maintenance and replacement. Battery management should be part of an established, on-going preventive maintenance program. The best and most comprehensive maintenance programs, for today and tomorrow, incorporate UPS and battery monitoring combined with remote services.

According to the same DCUG surveys mentioned earlier, monitoring and infrastructure management has been among data center managers’ top two infrastructure concerns for the past five years, and will likely be an area of growth for Emerson Network Power this year and beyond. Customers seek the peace of mind that comes from knowing that data center experts are watching over their business-critical systems.

A popular option for busy facility managers is the use of stationary battery monitors with remote professional analyst services. However, we know from our research that customers are looking for a way to shorten the length of downtime, and the time needed for troubleshooting and repair. It is because of these needs that we anticipate a customer preference toward having remote monitoring technology embedded into power protection infrastructures, and for that technology to include comprehensive data collection in order to provide early warning of alarm or out-of-tolerance conditions.

The use of embedded monitoring technology combined with remote services will likely become the norm, especially for high performing data centers that must now support core business initiatives like cost cutting while still improving availability. For starters, according to a 2013 Ponemon Institute national report, few issues are as costly as unplanned downtime. When you consider that the average cost of an outage due to UPS system failure is nearly $680,000, you can see how improving availability through a combination of monitoring and remote services is vital to protecting a business’ bottom line.

With the right remote monitoring technology and remote services provider, data center or facility managers have the ability to directly impact two key measures of availability: Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) and Mean Time To Repair (MTTR).

Around-the-clock connectivity provides real-time insights into power system performance, especially when the monitoring technology is embedded in the UPS. In fact, through expert analysis of parametric data, issues can be identified and resolved, often before our customers even realize there is a problem that could lead to downtime, significantly improving MTBF. Having access to performance data on a more regular basis allows for proactive management of critical assets, and some early studies lead by an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have shown that this data-based decision making can drive competitive advantage.

Inevitably failures do happen. When they do, getting back up and running in the shortest possible time is critical. Improving MTTR is possible with the right remote monitoring technology because continuous connectivity allows infrastructure experts working from a knowledge base to deliver the highest level of support. They are able to continually collect and analyze data from key parameters and transform that information into an actionable plan. In the event of a failure, this remote diagnosis allows service technicians to be more informed and armed with the correct parts needed to fix a problem before they are dispatched to a customer’s site. Ultimately, with remote UPS and battery monitoring, the time needed to restore a UPS to operation is much less than with a sequential, time-based approach in which the simple awareness of an event can exceed eight hours.

Having the ability to detect potential problems early and rapidly respond to defects or degradation maximizes the reliability of UPS battery systems and gives facility managers the adaptability needed to meet more demanding organizational goals and better react to the inevitable changes in data center technologies, designs and processes that lie ahead.

For more information, please visit www.emersonnetworkpower.com.