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Tech Watch: Modularity, management top UPS wish list

The increased focus on data center energy efficiency and the push to virtualization underscore the need for better UPS management, VARs say.

The intensified scrutiny on data center energy efficiency and the push to virtualize as much infrastructure as possible has underscored the need for better management and modularity in uninterruptible power supply (UPS) technology.

More resources on energy-efficient data centers:
How to choose the right uninterruptible power supply for your data center

Four ways to extend data center UPS battery life

The quality of the power reaching data center equipment has a profound impact on its lifespan and its efficiency, say VARs with serious UPS practices, which they use to differentiate their business. Virtualization technology only complicates matters.

"If you lose power, there are so many organizations out there who don't realize the implications," said Rob Rowe, sales manager for Information Systems Intelligence LLC, an IT infrastructure integrator in Grand Rapids, Mich., that frequently represents Tripp Lite UPS products. "Anyone who has had this happen knows that unless you shut them down gracefully, having applications come back up again is a nightmare."

The top UPS vendors have been doing plenty behind the scenes to seize the opportunity, from improving battery technology (most UPS failures are attributable to poor battery maintenance) to refining their management software.

One example: Eaton Corp. in August teamed up with VMware Inc., one of its technology alliance partners, to release a series of vPower Solution Bundles. The technology ensures that virtualized servers shut down gracefully and logically in the case of a power outage. The new bundles team the Eaton BladeUPS 5130 or 9130 UPS with a communications card and its Intelligent Power Manager supervisory software that can work with up to 10 nodes.

Eaton plans to further raise the bar for its channel partners by introducing a new certification, Certified Power Efficiency Consultant, sometime later this year after more feedback from Eaton channel partners, said Brooke Lang, the company's global IT channel manager.

The focus of the new badge is to help VARs identify potential efficiency issues for their customers. Indeed, 20% of the heat generated by any data center can come from power quality issues, Lang said.

Bob Sullivan, president of Sullivan & Associates, a data center and telecommunications facility design company in Cedar Knolls, N.J., advised VARs to seek UPS and power distribution equipment that enables them to more closely control and monitor the power draw on each switch and outlet. This can help prevent equipment overloads. It can also help them detect if a UPS is going bad before it actually fails.

"Batteries are very critical to the UPS systems. A majority of failures are attributable to batteries. … On projects, we do individual monitoring. We will know if the impedance, the temperature is rising or anything else," Sullivan said.

Information Systems Intelligence's Rowe said that the amount of runtime tha can be wrung out of a UPS battery today is a lot longer than it used to be, and the units themselves are much smaller. That's important in today's high-density rack environments, where space is at a premium.

also is critical in converged networks, where more devices than ever -- such as IP phones or IP video surveillance cameras -- depend on uptime. For this reason, Rowe recommends his clients use products that support Power over Ethernet when possible. He also recommends Tripp Lite because one of its UPS models is completely hot-swappable: That is, the entire UPS (not just the battery) can be replaced without having to shut down the attached system.

"From the VAR's perspective, there are some people that sell only power, but the overwhelming majority sell everything," said Brian Mcnamara, director for applications services, data center architecture, with Tripp Lite. "The IT manager is judged on his ability to keep the equipment up 24/7 and never bring it down."

Modularity is another theme that VARs will hear more about in the coming months, says Perry Szarka, strategic business unit leader for the converged network group with MCPc Computer Products & Consulting Inc. in Cleveland. "It's pretty easy to demonstrate that a nonvirtualized environment is pretty wasteful," Szarka said. "As you virtualize, your power needs go down, so modularity is really important."

Russell Senesac, director of data center business development for APC by Schneider Electric, says modularity and scalability are major concerns for every data center manager. That's because equipment runs at its most efficient at its highest utilization. "You want to be able to rightsize all of the power and cooling pieces," he said. "That way you don't pay for any energy or electricity you aren't using."

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