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Protect your power

17 July 2012

Data centre operators are being advised to prepare for the significant increase in power consumption across the capital during the Olympics, as well as any conceivable disruptions occurring during the competitions' six weeks schedule.

"It's virtually impossible to predict the true impact the Olympics will have on power consumption with any degree of certainty so, with that in mind, it is imperative that those responsible for maintaining the most critical facilities have adequate safeguards in place." Commented Mike Elms, technical services manager for Uninterruptible Power Supplies.

"The critical nature of most data centres means they are likely to have multiple power sources entering the facility, known as being 'duel-corded'. As an owner or operator, you could be forgiven for believing that this would be all the protection you require but it doesn't take in to account the possibility of a catastrophic event, such as an act of terrorism, or even human error, which accounts for around 75 percent of data centre downtime.

"In one of these situations, and assuming the facility has not been physically affected, the only thing that would stop your operation from grinding to a halt is an onsite power protection system, with the capacity to comfortably cope with the entire load – and that's means a UPS facilitating the transition to a back up generator,." Elms added.

Technology analysts Ovum have suggested that operators manage potential power shortfalls by switching off non-critical applications. However, as Conleth McCallan, managing director for hosting & connectivity provider, Datanet, explains, for many, this is simply not possible.

"I don't think anyone is expecting major disruptions throughout the games. After all, those working with the games' organising committee have had plenty of time to guarantee this isn't the case. Having said that, we are making sure all maintenance is completed prior the games, and our existing procedures ensure all systems have appropriate levels of back-up power protection. At Datanet, we rely on our reputation for 24/7 continuity and any disruption has the potential to damage that reputation, so for us, and our clients, it is definitely a case of better to be safe than sorry."

Within the data centre industry very few facilities would today be without a power protection strategy, including a UPS. However, ensuring the system is still able to cope with a load that has grown significantly since the UPS system was commissioned is a more relevant issue, as Elms concludes: "In the past we have visited sites where the size of the load has grown to where the UPS system has lost a level of redundancy or in a few cases, where the capacity of the UPS no longer meets the load it is supporting. If there was a major disruption in one of these facilities, it is highly likely critical applications would be affected. It may sound alarmist but all the potential disruptions being discussed are possible so with this increased level of risk, it is vital that data centre operators spend some time assessing their system and formulating a plan to deal with any eventuality. The more prepared an operation is, the better an entire network environment can handle downtime or an outage."

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