Selecting the software and services needed to keep critical power systems continuously available
IT and facilities management solutions come in many varieties, most of which include at least some power monitoring and management functionality. Generally speaking, no one solution offers all the features facility operators need to keep their uninterruptible power systems (UPSs), power distribution units (PDUs) and other critical power components operating at peak efficiency.
Data center operators use infrastructure management solutions to administer applications and hardware components, in addition the facilities mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. Most data centers require several of these solutions, which typically include power management functionalities. There are three main kinds of infrastructure management solutions:
1. Network management systems
Network management systems enable IT managers to view and administer all of a facility’s servers, storage devices and network resources from a single location.
Strengths and weaknesses: Network management systems excel at managing IT hardware and software, but provide limited visibility into a facility’s physical infrastructure and power systems.
2. Building management control systems
Building management control (BMC) systems give data center operators more centralized control over the facilities safety, comfort and mechanical systems.
Strengths and weaknesses: BMC solutions are essentially a mirror opposite of network management systems in that they provide comprehensive control over physical resources, but little to no control over IT assets. In addition, while most BMC offerings include power and cooling management capabilities, that functionality rarely extends all the way down the power chain to a data center’s UPSs, batteries, PDUs and server racks.
3. Data center infrastructure management solutions
Unlike network management and BMC systems, data center infrastructure management (DCIM) solutions provide unified control over both IT and mechanical resources, enabling administrators to manage everything from physical and virtual servers to power and cooling systems through a single console.
Strengths and weaknesses: The same end-to-end functionality that makes DCIM solutions so powerful also makes them complex. As a result, deploying, integrating and maintaining them can be an expensive and time-consuming process.
Virtualization management solutions
Solutions such as VMware vCenter Server, Microsoft System Center Operations Manager and Citrix XenCenter enable today’s highly virtualized data centers to view and control their many physical and virtual machines.
They also assist with power management, allowing technicians to extend UPS battery life during utility outages by shutting down virtual machines and consolidating them onto fewer host devices. Solutions equipped with “live migration” programs such as VMware vMotion also let data centers move virtual machines from host servers running on battery power to unaffected servers elsewhere on the network or in a colocation data center in the cloud, allowing a facility’s critical applications to maintain uptime in the face of a power event.
No other type of IT and facilities management solution can perform these critical functions, so every virtualized data center should include a virtualization management solution in its power management and monitoring arsenal.
Power monitoring and management solutions
Infrastructure and virtualization management solutions assist with a wide range of administrative tasks. Power monitoring and management solutions, by contrast, offer more specialized assistance with one particularly critical task – keeping a data center’s power systems running efficiently and continuously. There are two basic kinds of power monitoring and management solutions.
1. Entry-level power management solutions
These equip data centers with an extensive array of capabilities that infrastructure and virtualization management solutions typically lack, including the ability to automatically discover UPSs, PDUs and other network-enabled power devices across the enterprise and view and manage power assets through a single control panel that’s accessible from any web browser.
These types of power management solutions help data center operators collect and archive facility-wide UPS performance data that can help administrators prevent downtime by proactively identifying and addressing impending failures, overloaded UPSs or UPSs in need of rebalancing. Also, operators can set power consumption limits for servers during extended power outages and shut down virtual and physical servers gracefully during power failures.
2. Enterprise-grade power management solutions
Designed for use in larger data centers with more complex requirements, enterprise-grade power management solutions come with more extensive and advanced capabilities than entry-level systems. Specifically, the best enterprise-grade power management solutions give IT and facilities managers the ability to generate detailed energy-efficient reports and calculate key energy-efficiency metrics such as Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) and Data Center infrastructure Efficiency (DCiE). Typically found in multi-tenant or colocation facilities, enterprise-grade power management solutions help operators balance electrical loads to minimize peak demand and maximize energy cost savings and measure power consumption on a per-workload basis to support energy chargeback initiatives.
Remote power monitoring services
Together, infrastructure management solutions, virtualization management solutions and power monitoring and management solutions arm data center operators with a broad assortment of capabilities for keeping power systems and mission-critical workloads continuously available for the facilities they support. However, no power monitoring and management strategy that relies exclusively on such systems is truly complete.
To maximize application uptime and power system reliability, data center operators should supplement their onsite management solutions with a remote power monitoring service. Such offerings ensure that IT and facilities managers receive prompt notification of power-related problems no matter when they occur by providing round-the-clock, worldwide monitoring of data center power systems. They’re also staffed by trained experts with deep knowledge of power systems who can help facility managers interpret power system alarms and more accurately distinguish those requiring immediate action from those that can wait.
Power monitoring and management are complex responsibilities, but they are critical to maintaining uptime for critical applications. To perform those tasks effectively, most data centers need one or more infrastructure management solutions, a virtualization management solution and a specialized power monitoring and management solution. They also require the deep expertise and continuous protection offered only by remote power monitoring services. Data center operators who wish to stop utility outages and power system malfunctions from disabling mission-critical IT solutions should ensure they have the right set of onsite solutions and remote services for their specific environment.
Arthur Mulligan is a Raleigh-based product line manager for Eaton’s U.S. power quality service organization and has celebrated more than 15 years with Eaton. He has a varied background of marketing, advertising and sales experience in telecom, software and professional services.
Jim Tessier is an experienced product manager for IT hardware and software products, and has been with Eaton for six years. He introduced and grew the Intelligent Power Manger (IPM) software product from a simple power management platform to a powerful, award-winning data center power management software that integrates within the IT environment and offers controls to optimize data center power solutions.