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Power for Converged World

15 November 2005

The drive towards cutting costs in the corporate world is spawning a new generation of converged technology, which is having a direct impact on the responsibilities of the facilities manager, as Robin Koffler explains

NEW TECHNOLOGIES SUCH AS IP-TELEPHONY (VOIP) and Power over Ethernet (PoE) demand a complete rethink in terms of power management strategy. Today's IP handsets feature complicated displays, memory and integrated functions. They are supplied with their own power adapter that needs to be plugged into a wall socket. In a large corporation there are unlikely to be enough sockets available.

In addition, the demand for processing power from business applications has led to the popularity of high-density server systems which offer dynamic resilience for mission critical computing, but, they require additional cooling which puts a further strain on power resources.

On 15th August 2003, 55 million people in the USA were plunged into darkness by a massive power failure. In less than three minutes, 21 power stations failed. Only two weeks later the South East of England was struck - despite the National Grid¡¯s assurances it wouldn't happen here - London was plunged into darkness leaving 500,000 commuters stranded.

National Grid Transco is straining under increasing demand for electricity. UK energy consumption increased by 32 per cent between 1970 and 2001. In 2004, the UK became a net importer of fuel for the first time since 1992. Primary fuel consumption is not being met by indigenous production (source DTI, Digest of UK Energy Statistics 2005). In 2004, the industrial sector was the largest consumer of electricity.

Power cuts don't just render the computer useless - the whole communications infrastructure will come to a grinding halt unless steps are taken to guard against vulnerabilities. The UPS is often considered a grudge purchase but power failures are increasingly more of a certainty: the National Grid is less than one hundred per cent reliable which amounts to many man hours of downtime per year. The average number of customer interruptions per 100 customers (and average minutes lost) across Great Britain was 86.2 in 2002/03.

Not only is there a need for continuous power but for a clean flow of energy as modern equipment working at low voltages becomes more susceptible to power surges and glitches which occur as a matter of course in the supply from the National Grid. Available power resources cannot be relied upon!

The purpose of a UPS is to offer an alternative source of power in the event of an outage. It sits between the mains power supply and items of electronic equipment (the load). The three different types of UPS can be used solely or in conjunction to offer backup and protection as well as line conditioning, which negates surges and glitches.

Back up
Modern back-up power systems provide the resilience and flexibility to adapt to changing power requirements. Backup power and surge protection helps increase the productivity and lifespan of desktop PCs, work stations, point of sale systems, telecom switches and other sensitive equipment.

...On Line or Double Conversion UPS - voltage and frequency independent. The output power is maintained irrespective of fluctuations in the main supply and the inverter constantly powers the load. It can also operate as a frequency converter and is ideal for networked installations, large servers and network processes i.e. telecommunications. A further advantage is that the UPS can fail safely to mains without crashing its load as it has a builtin automatic bypass facility. Traditionally transformer-based technology developments have led to decreasing system size, higher operating efficiencies and transformerless designs that claim to cut the size of a system by 66 per cent.

...Line Interactive - a built-in electronic regulation device stabilises and regulates voltage fluctuation offering protection from spikes, surges, under/over voltage and mains loss. The inverter switches on when the mains fails or fluctuates outside preset parameters. Designed for small or confined installations such as desktop PCs, point-of-sale (PoS), small servers and telephone systems.

...Off Line - tracks the mains power supply for voltage and frequency variations, has little filtering and no stabilisation or regulation attributes. It is most commonly used in smaller applications such as retailers, small or home office and is the most popular type of UPS.

Larger facilities may also have a rotary UPS or operate in conjunction with other on-site generators. PoE is a way of transmitting a small amount of electrical power over standard category 5, 10BaseT and 100Base-TX Ethernet data cables. All equipment, plus all the switches and routers, must be supported by a UPS so that the phones and IT network are powered during an outage (similar to the functioning of conventional phones in these conditions).

Today's UPS have been developed to integrate into building management systems and offer two-way communication to ensure a high level of maintenance and security of power, as well as controlled shutdown allowing a single system to be worked on without having to shut the whole network down. Modern back up systems enable remote monitoring of all critical UPS, generator, air-conditioning and fire suppression equipment. Integration of monitoring functions into existing IT and facilities infrastructures can give a business early warning of impending power and other equipment failures to help increase uptime.

Most UPS are built on technology that is reliable but they are not infallible and need to be tested and maintained regularly, an aspect that is often neglected. Batteries in particular do not last forever and need to be changed regularly. Most UPS will signal when this is the case but if they are shut away in a basement the operator might not hear the alarm. In this case regular checks need to be carried out. In addition, the disposal of batteries has to comply with the new Hazardous Waste Regulations.

For mission critical applications, a maintenance by-pass system can be incorporated to allow work to be carried out without shut down of the UPS itself. In addition some suppliers offer non-invasive battery testing. Power protection needs to be planned for with every critical piece of equipment being in the loop. Allowance needs to be made for future expansion, remembering that requirements may change as the business grows and more and more equipment is added.

FMs must be aware of the changes new technology is bringing to their role, most especially its impact on business continuity and the need for power protection and management. Power consumption is likely to increase rather than decrease, which means reliance on a constant source cannot be guaranteed without each building adopting its own protection strategy.

Essential UPS tips
...Develop a comprehensive power outage plan to ensure that the correct stand-by power capacity is available to support continuous operations
...Plan for changes ¨C upgrades to IT or telecommunications equipment will have an effect on power and cooling requirements
...Remember to cover critical equipment adequately including PCs, servers, networks and telephone systems
...Is there enough fuel onsite to run the generator in the event of a power failure?
...If the generator and UPS are apart from each other, remember to check the cabling in between for faults and or loose connections
...Check UPS batteries and other consumables (fan, oil, air and fuel filters) regularly
...Test and maintain UPS systems regularly

Secure power for computer room
Working in conjunction with SITE (Secure IT Environments Limited), Riello Galatrek supplied ING Direct with a modular computer room approach at its Reading HQ and a fourth-floor installation at its Cardiff offices supplemented with a roof-top 377kVA generator to cater for future expansion.

Three Multi Dialog 60kVA UPS were installed, each with its own 10-minute battery pack to protect against short duration mains failures as well as until the generator kicks in. The system has built-in redundancy; should one UPS fail, the other two will take over without any disruption.

Local network managers can monitor a wide range of UPS parameters for each unit and the combined power system via ING's own network. The complete installation is remotely monitored by Riello using TeleGuard specialist software and there is also a maintenance contract in place with each UPS having internal maintenance bypass so that preventative maintenance can be performed during working hours without risk.

....Robin Koffler is general manager of Riello Galatrek.

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