Dec 06 2010

Energy Management Enablers

Software that taps PDUs and UPSes to monitor power consumption helps K–12 data center managers keep tabs on energy use and better manage the devices.

January 2011 E-newsletter

District Cuts Energy Costs

Software Monitors Energy Use

Calculate PUE

Review: Raritan Power IQ

Cooling Techniques Boost Efficiency

At the Judson Independent School District near San Antonio, energy bills have risen by 50 percent in the past decade. In addition, the district's aging facilities aren't equipped to handle the demands of modern technology.

“It becomes very apparent, as you start adding equipment to older schools, they may be built to run film projectors, but there aren't even enough physical outlets available at most of the sites – they can't handle the electrical load,” says Steve Young, chief technology officer of the school district of about 21,000 students and 3,000 employees. “One way to mitigate that is to find equipment that's very efficient.”

Lessening the impact of energy-intensive equipment was the impetus for the district's 30-person IT department to launch a green initiative. Part of that plan included installing uninterruptible power supply systems in its three data centers from a number of manufacturers, including Tripp Lite. Young's group uses Tripp Lite's PowerAlert power management software to centrally manage the UPSes, but hasn't yet begun monitoring how much energy is being drawn by the IT equipment attached to the UPS systems. However, Young sees how such a capability could be helpful.

“Our IT shop doesn't pay the energy bills, but I know we've done many things to cut down on energy usage with our UPSes,” says Young. “That's why all of our data centers have them.”

As the movement toward energy efficiency in the data center evolves, IT departments are finding tools that give them more granular control over energy use and related costs. Power management software for UPS systems and power distribution units from companies such as APC, Eaton, Raritan and Tripp Lite can determine how much energy is being consumed by attached devices, as well as provide remote monitoring of system health and environmental conditions.

Using power management tools for monitoring data center equipment can help an organization's overall move toward energy efficiency, says Greg Schulz, founder of the Server and StorageIO Group consulting firm.

Schulz dubs the typical lack of attention paid to such tools as the “green gap.”

Percentage of IT managers who know what portion of their IT budget is spent on energy, up from 50% in 2009

Source: CDW•G 2010 Energy Efficient IT Report

“When I mention green, IT professionals think reduced carbon footprint. They don't equate it to boosting productivity or leveraging power management,” he says. “As people realize there's more to green than just CO2 and recycling, that it's also about economic activity and driving productivity, they realize they've been missing out on opportunities.”

PDU and UPS software also help IT departments with the general management of these devices, such as remotely monitoring UPS systems for status and environmental conditions without having to physically check on them.

At the Nebo School District in southern Utah County, Utah, the IT department had inadequate UPS systems that couldn't keep the district online during power outages, and no backup generator. In late 2008 the district, which includes 26 elementary schools and 13 secondary schools, built a new data center designed with energy efficiency in mind, and installed APC InfraStruXure UPS systems. The devices come with InfraStruXure Central software to monitor power, cooling, security and environmental conditions.

“Over time, we have room for growth with sufficient power and cooling, including an interface with the backup generator,” says Dale Bills, technical services supervisor with the school district.  “I can't predict what changes are ahead of us, but I am certain that they will come because of the dynamic nature of technology. I believe that the APC equipment we have installed will accommodate those changes easily.”

Keeping Power Equipment Efficient

Here are some tips for keeping your PDUs and UPS devices running smoothly:

  • Visually inspect PDUs annually and UPS systems semi-annually for signs of loose connections, burned insulation, corrosion or other wear.
  • Regularly clean and vacuum UPS equipment enclosures.
  • Set power management software to alert when a UPS load approaches 80 percent of maximum capacity, to prevent the system from going into unplanned bypass.
  • Use power management software to push firmware and other updates to PDUs.
  • Make sure there is adequate ventilation to keep power equipment at the operating temperature range specified by the manufacturer; install dedicated air conditioning if necessary.