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To boost data center efficiency, consider UPS consolidation

Talking Tech By Dave Story, enterprise power specialist, CDW, Network World
April 18, 2011 11:35 AM ET
Dave Story

Network World - In data center upgrade planning, backup power is often among the last considerations and the first budget item redlined. Many companies purchase an uninterruptible power system (UPS) only as they add equipment -- what we call a segmented approach. Before long, data center managers can find themselves with an inefficient power system that is difficult to maintain and daunting to improve, yet doing so can offer big returns.

UPSs have a five- to seven-year life span, and the older they are, the less efficient they tend to be. Decentralized UPS installations tend to leave significant stranded capacity and result in more UPSs than needed. Consolidation reclaims that waste and makes better use of what you have.

UPSs drain energy in a number of ways. First, they are often not used to their full capacity, leading to more UPSs than required, and second, the increased heat produced by the additional power systems and the inefficiency of older systems often necessitates additional cooling solutions. It's easy to see how UPS consolidation can help companies realize significant cost savings.

IN DEPTH: A future look at data center power

So, when does your company consider UPS consolidation? Once you have five to seven UPSs in the data center, it is worth evaluating your options. You may, in fact, be able to get down to one or two UPSs. Of course, there are a few things to think about before you seriously consider UPS consolidation:

The dollar return: Determine your target return on investment (ROI) and when those savings need to be realized, whether it's in one year or three, for example.

The company's future: What are your company's growth prospects over the next five years? Will it remain about the size it is today, or could it grow rapidly? Does it plan to open other locations? Considering your company's future can be key in determining which UPS solution to implement. A legacy UPS may suffice if prospects indicate minimal or very predictable growth of computing requirements, while a scalable, modular UPS will maximize utilization percentages and may prove more economical when an organization expects to grow significantly.

The appropriate runtime: After a power interruption, do you want the data center to run for 10 minutes, an hour, longer? Consider the batteries and space they will take to achieve that runtime. Also prioritize which equipment is essential to business operations and which can be shut down to conserve energy for more critical systems.

The green factor: Is going green an important part of your corporate culture? UPS consolidation can complement a larger plan to green technology which may ease management buy-in.

The data crunch: How important are metrics to your company? When you consolidate UPSs you can illustrate, in a detailed manner, how specific devices are utilizing energy and identify appropriate solutions, whether those involve shutting down nonessential equipment or determining which of your servers is least efficient for potential replacement. You can also include power strips that warn you when equipment is drawing too much energy.

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