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Overcoming challenges with intelligent power management solutions

In recent years Australia has experienced power disruptions on an unprecedented scale.  From rolling blackouts to the 2016 South Australian state-wide outage, increasing consumer demand and extreme weather are causing havoc for the nation’s power supply.

For businesses, it’s never been more essential to have a robust power management system. Nonetheless, many organisations are still relying on standalone software from multiple vendors to monitor and manage their uninterrupted power systems (UPS), power distribution units (PDU) and other critical power devices. Originally created as “set and forget”-style systems, they are often short on features, poorly integrated and outdated, unable to keep up with the new demands that are placed on them in the modern world of power management.

While no two organisations are the same, many common threads have become apparent across numerous industries for power monitoring and management issues. By turning to intelligent, local and complete power management solutions, organisations can overcome eight of the most common challenges.

Aggregating power quality device information
Organisations often use UPSs and PDUs from multiple manufacturers, with some lacking connector cards and most only offering standalone power management solutions that are challenging to integrate. Additionally, older solutions are incapable of monitoring power quality systems outside of the data centre (e.g. in locations such as branch offices and lab facilities).  This creates fragmented and incomplete views of power infrastructure.

Today’s intelligent power management solutions (IPM) offer a holistic view of power quality infrastructure, through a single console. Such systems offer compatibility with network-enabled power devices, including most UPSs, environmental sensors and PDUs, no matter the location. Data centre managers can now monitor and manage power quality hardware both inside and out, reducing costly disruptions and downtime.

Furthermore, IPM typically offer auto-discovery functionality that accelerates and simplifies setting-up and detecting power devices in the network. Eaton UPSs without network connectivity can be discovered in a proxy manner by IPM provided they are directly connected via a network-enabled PC. Giving technicians access to a comprehensive view over their power quality hardware and the ability to group and display devices into structures, enables efficient system identification and management.

Protecting workloads during power outages
Despite contingencies, data centres aren’t guaranteed against power interruptions, so risk minimisation is vital.  Investing in a UPS ensures emergency backup power; however, should downtime exceed its battery life, organisations must shut down affected servers promptly to prevent software corruption or data loss.

Currently, most data centres need to manually perform this process but IPM helps streamline the process. It enables technicians to divide receptacles on their UPS hardware into separate load segments to be monitored and administered individually. Grouping non-important infrastructure together lets the shutdown process begin with non-essential infrastructure, conserving backup power for mission-critical devices during an outage.

Additionally, during extended interruptions, next-generation power protection solutions will automatically shut down affected servers and network devices to protect data integrity.

Monitoring and managing virtualized server environments
According to Gartner Inc., over 75 percent of the world’s server workloads are now virtualised and penetration is expected to continually increase[i].  Organisations are implementing server virtualisation to help lower hardware spend, simplify management and maintain uptime.

Virtualisation management (VM) software is being used to administer virtual environments, and provide centralised control over host servers, virtual machines, storage and more. Currently, the majority using VM suites are required to employ separate management tools to monitor their power infrastructure, ultimately weakening productivity and rapid response times during crisis.

IPM integrates with leading VM products, enabling technicians to use one console to monitor and administer physical and virtual servers, UPSs and PDUs and other power devices.

What’s more, drawing on seamless integration with live migration systems, IPM can automatically and transparently move virtual machines from host servers impacted by power outages to unaffected servers on the network, reducing application downtime.

Similarly, asset management solutions can automatically help optimise power efficiency and virtual workloads across server racks. For example, if a server enclosure is nearing its power or cooling limit, the system automatically tells the VM to move workloads onto host devices in racks with spare capacity.

Maintaining power system reliability
During an emergency, the loss of UPS can be catastrophic, but most organisations are still ill-equipped to identify simple issues, such as deteriorating performance or overheating batteries. IPM offers real-time notifications of issues, via email, network popups or text messages, allowing technicians to fix problems before they turn into downtime.

Additionally, the latest solutions enable enterprise-wide UPS performance data to be collected, enabling technicians draw upon historical information for analysis and reporting.

Administering remote data centres
Network infrastructures are more widely distributed than ever, with many organisations operating multiple data centres. However, current power management solutions can only support one site at a time, requiring technicians to use dedicated workstations located at each data centre or facility.

IPM, by contrast, can monitor and manage all network-enabled power devices, no matter the location. Technicians use one console, with a web-based interface, requiring only browser and network access.

Tracking power quality assets
Data centre environments are always evolving, and can often leave technicians struggling to keep accurate records of how many power devices are in use. IPM simplifies asset management by tracking changes to power infrastructure, such as additions or retirements. With greater visibility over all network power systems, tracking goes beyond the data centre to include branch and local deployments, and enables technicians to file notes on physical locations and environmental devices.

Managing use-based electricity billing schemes
To reduce costs and become more efficient, data centres are increasingly looking to use-based electricity billing schemes, which charges different departments based on their electricity consumption.

However, collating relevant usage data can be challenging. IPM simplifies this task and lets technicians monitor and mange power quality devices in groups that correspond to the correct department, enabling easy creation of reports for billing.

Configuring and updating firmware
Individual firmware updates via UPS connector cards can be a time-consuming and expensive process, with each device requiring a physical update. IPM allows technicians to upgrade all UPS hardware at once over the network, significantly reducing the complexity of the task, saving time and costs.

Organisations now have access to a new generation of intelligent, logical and complete power management solutions that are designed to meet the today’s challenges. Offering a holistic and comprehensive view of their infrastructure, they protect both their physical and virtual environments during outages and maintenance, no matter where you are.


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