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You can’t manage what you’re not monitoring

This might be a mantra that is heard over and over again, but the intricacies of data centre power management still seem to be beyond the comprehension of a significant minority, if not a majority, of data centre professionals. DCS talks to Marc Marazzi, VP International Sales at Server Technology, about the technologies and tools available

 

Date: 6 Mar 2013

 Q Please can you provide some background on the company’s
history to date?
A Server Technology is a privately held company headquartered in Reno, NV with offices in St. Albans, UK, Singapore and Wuppertal, Germany. The company was founded in 1984 on the premise of providing remote network and power management office solutions and has evolved into providing a variety of remote power and management solutions for the data centre equipment cabinet in enterprise data centres, co-location facilities, and remote sites.
Our only focus is on intelligent cabinet PDUs.

We rely on our 100% product performance testing of every single unit to ensure the highest level of quality, performance and reliability. We build high-quality components that guarantee that our delivered products not only work day-1, but also and more importantly, on day-1000 and beyond.

We pride ourselves as being the inventor of the Intelligent PDU and have authored more than two-dozen US Patents capturing our ideas, our expertise and our imagination. At Server Technology, we pride ourselves on looking forward across the IT industry and then create and perfect power related technologies so they are available when
our customers need them.
Q What distinguishes Server Technology in the data centre
space right now?

A No one knows or understands data center power better than the data center power experts at Server Technology. Our laser focus on power and performance at the data center cabinet level gives us the knowledge, insight and expertise to analyze, evaluate and advise customers on how to best achieve their goals - whether they’re centered around power management, efficiency, capacity planning, remote management, PUE/DCiE or meeting green initiatives. Our team of data center power experts are the trusted advisors to help customers with:
£ data centre planning
£ data centre capacity planning
£ data centre power audits
£ new greenfield data centres
£ data centre consolidation
£ data centre retrofit projects

The other thing that sets us apart is our commitment to quality.
Before any products are shipped to customers, Server Technology makes sure that every single product is up to the highest quality PDU standards with a 100% test performed on our “next generation” Automatic Testing Equipment (ATE). Our custom-designed ATE performs a 100% functional test on every mission-critical data center PDU where key parameters are recorded and monitored on a real time basis.

We’re so committed to quality that we have an in-house state-of-the-art Power Test Lab where our products are validated and tested for long term reliability. Our lab has complete testing facilities for thermal, shock and vibration and emissions along with testing capabilities to ensure compliance with applicable safety standards.

Q More specifically, what does Server Technology bring to what is
a fairly crowded PDU market?
A Over 60,000 customers around the world rely on Server Technology’s cabinet power distribution units (cabinet PDUs, also called CDUs) and power management and measurement solutions to help reduce downtime and improve energy efficiency. Well known for manufacturing best-of-breed PDUs, Server Technology has the largest product line in the industry, engineered by the largest engineering team dedicated to cabinet power management. Driven by customer innovation, Server Technology is committed to helping companies reach their uptime, power consumption and green initiative goals. And with 97% of our customers purchasing from us again and again and again, we know we’re doing something right. Server Technology owns more intellectual property in the cabinet PDU space than any other manufacturer, and has become famous for our high quality products and vast product offering.

Q Please can you talk us through your various products/
technologies, including: Sentry Power Manager and the
various PDUs?

A Our Sentry Power Manager (SPM) solution is capable of monitoring and managing multiple devices in IP-based enterprise networks. SPM provides a global view of all Server Technology and 3rd Party CDUs with the ability to view devices based on their temperature, humidity, current and device status. SPM helps you manage today’s biggest data center challenges:
£ Outlet level state control & power-cycling for remediation
£ Power monitoring at the inlet or outlet level
£ Environmental monitoring for all attached sensors
£ Manage power phase balancing and N+1 redundancy
£ Managing hundreds or thousands of PDUs, globally
£ Support “Green” initiatives such as PUE and DCeP metrics
£ Provides continuous measurement at any level instrumented
£ Remote monitoring and control of any number of data centres
£ Virtual or appliance
£ Custom views by user
£ Load balance 3-phase circuits across cabinet, zone or UPS
£ Centralized alarms associated with energy
£ Supports capacity planning, efficiency and service availability goals

Here is an overview of our PDU product families:
£ The Sentry basic cabinet PDU product family provides a simple
solution where reliable power distribution for equipment racks and
other data center applications is needed. It offers different input and output connections to distribute 110V, 208V or 230V power
and a 16, 20, 30, 32, 50, 60-Amp power input feed.
The Sentry Metered cabinet PDUs are the same as the Basic PDUs, but they have one or more LEDs. Because it has the local LED input current monitoring, the metered PDUs allow network engineers to utilize the PDUs True RMS Power Monitor to precisely measure the current (in amps) that network devices are drawing on the power circuit.
With Smart PDUs, you can monitor your power (in Amps), temperature and humidity levels over the network through any Web browser, and you can get SNMP (simple network management protocol) alerts or e-mail alerts when any of those things – power, temperature or humidity – exceed thresholds that you have pre-assigned. So, you get the reliable power distribution that you need combined with remote power and environmental monitoring. Local onboard LEDs also display branch circuit monitoring
The Switched cabinet PDU products provide the capability to securely monitor and control cabinet power via a network for a data center or remote branch office. The Switched CDUs combine networked configuration and management with power distribution and power and environmental monitoring. Users can reboot a single or dual power server with one command (ON/OFF/REBOOT), receive SNMP-based or e-mail alerts when power or environmental conditions exceed thresholds and assign access rights to user groups or individuals.

Q Is there still a tendency for end users to regard PDUs as low
value, commodity items?
A Considering PDUs for your data center racks and IT equipment should require much more thought than simply selecting a ‘power-strip’ hardware configuration. If you care about Green energy initiatives and desire to save on electricity cost by making the most efficient use of the energy you use, make the move to intelligent rack PDUs if you haven’t already done so. This is particularly true for a new data centre build and collocations. If you’re considering a collocation space, choosing the right PDU features will provide additional insight into your true energy use and a tool for capacity planning. We are now seeing large data centre growth with collocation providers that charge clients based on actual energy consumed, kilowatt hour (kWh). A well thought out data centre power distribution implementation will lead to reduced downtime, improved power monitoring management & control capabilities, and drive greater energy efficiency. The best suited Power Distribution solution requires considerable planning.

Q What questions should end users be asking their PDU supplier?
A In determining the functional feature requirements for a rack PDU, System Solution Level Questions should be evaluated and the Key Issues need to be considered to help determine how any desired feature(s) is to be implementation. Once an outline of feature “Must Haves” and “Strong Wants” has been determined, Selecting the Rack PDU Hardware questions need to be answered to make evident the best suitable Rack PDU Hardware.
£ System Solution Level Questions (What are you attempting to
accomplish?):
£ Will you be monitoring the IT equipment load (using PUE, DCIE, or
DCeP rating systems) to measure power efficiency?
£ Are you looking to construct a database of power (kW and kWh)
information for power monitoring, power reports and power
trending?
£ Would it be beneficial to be able to create “clusters” of outlet data
to develop power consumption trend data for groups of devices,
racks, rows, types of devices, or facilities?
£ Is it helpful to see current load capacity of a given power circuit
for capacity planning & load balancing based on actual IT
equipment loads (per phase amperage draw to help minimize
wasted energy due to unbalanced 3-Phase loads)?
£ Would it be useful to generate SNMP traps and receive an alert
delivered to the desktop or portable device when a pre-defined
power and/or environmental threshold have been exceeded at
the rack or outlet level?
£ Would automatic load shedding (turn off pre-determined outlets)
upon a pre-defined event be beneficial?
£ Would it be advantageous to use a single IP address per rack for
power & environmental monitoring, with management and control
to the outlet level?

Key Issues to be considered:
£ Maintaining Uptime
£ Design in Power Redundancy
£ Real-time Status & Alarm Notifications
£ Greater Equipment Densities
£ Maximizing Cabinet/Rack Space
£ Power Monitoring, Management & Control
£ Secure Network Management
£ Current meters & Load Balancing
£ Temperature & Humidity Sensing
£ Capacity Planning
£ Outlet Control
£ Per Outlet Power Sensing
£ Enterprise Level Monitoring
£ kWh Reports
£ Power / Temperature / Humidity Trends
£ Capacity Planning
£ Inventory & Asset location information

Selecting the Rack PDU Hardware questions:
£ What is the expected maximum power needed to the rack? (How
was this number determined, from the PS specification, capacity
planning tool, etc.?)
£ What voltage can be supplied to the rack?
£ Does the expected max power include planned power redundancy
& growth?
£ Will each rack be designed for power redundancy with a standard
A & B Input feed configuration?
£ What types of devices are being connecting in the rack?
£ Single or dual power supply devices?
£ Do you know the Power Factor for the devices within the rack?
£ How many outlets are required?
£ What types of outlets are required? (C19, C13, NEMA 5-20R…)
£ What racks are being used? (Mounting considerations…)

Q How do/should PDUs link into DCIM and BEM software?

A Integration is the key to help bring together key information from multiple systems as required to maintain uptime, increase efficiency and provide the overall ability to manage and monitor today’s Data Centre. Many systems today take advantage of the expertise and information available from other already existing systems within that Data Centre using API (Application Programming Interface) to provide that “single pane of glass” view within a single system that customers require. Our Sentry Power Manager integrates with DCIM and BMS systems through an API. These APIs are typically xml-based using industry standard tools like SOAP and REST. They allow the existing systems to provide greater value at the device level specific to those products or devices that they support.

Q There still seems to be some debate/uncertainty around the use
of AC and DC power – how/where/when. What is Server
Technology’s position on this?

A We design, engineer and build innovative solutions for two primary markets with common technology – data centers and telecommunications. Data Center (AC Power) customers rely on our products and solutions to:
£ Control and manage power to data center equipment
£ Provide mission-critical information to help reduce downtime
£ Provide analytics to help improve energy efficiency, achieve green
initiatives and reduce operating costs
Telecommunications (DC Power) customers rely on our products (our -48V line of PDUs) and solutions to:
£ Manage power supporting traditional wired and/or wireless
services to mobile devices
£ Reduce operating expenses, enhance reliability and achieve
green initiatives
£ Remotely manage power to equipment
Recently, there has been a focus on 380V products, so we have developed products to serve those customers as well. Here is an excerpt from a recent blog by our Senior Director of Firmware & Software, Calvin Nicholson:

“I have always contended that without a standard voltage and approved connector that it would never see the light of day. Just about all servers today have an option for running on -48 VDC power but for a long period of time there was no “standard” DC voltage value above that. A standard voltage needed to be selected as it is very rare for any data center to standardize on just one manufacturer’s server and manufacturer’s “need” design goals. From all of the materials I read and product data sheets from the server manufacturer’s themselves, 380 V DC is the voltage agreed upon as the high voltage DC power “standard.” I have never seen this written any place as a standard but the logic is that server power supplies today already convert AC to 380 V DC.

Now for the connector, I have never seen a written standard on the type of connector, but the default standard seems to be a connector made by Anderson connectors. This connector does not expose the user to arcs related to the breaking of the plug connection. Locking connectors that are keyed also help to avoid arc problems.

There is still a lot of debate over efficiency gains related to 380 V DC power and only after we have a number of installations will the facts be known. Other touted advantages seem to be reduced infrastructure costs, less cooling as less heat is being produced, greater reliability and greater efficiency.
Uptime and reliability are huge issues within a data center and everybody touts how reliable -48 V DC power systems have been for the Telco industry. One key issue that everybody seems to miss is that Telco gear requires NEBS “Network Equipment-Building System” compliance which involves a very stringent series of tests not required by typical IT equipment today.

Other topics that need review include safety, agency approvals, costs, equipment availability and a few others that I am sure I forgot. It is clear that 380 V DC power is coming soon in some form or fashion to a data center near you. As with any new technology, the early adopters will reap the possible benefits but also take the initial brunt of the pain. As we all know-- “No guts. No glory.””

Q Is there still a message to be preached around power
management or do you think end users understand what’s at
stake, but don’t always know how/where to start?
A As you’ve heard over and over regarding data centre power, you can’t manage what you’re not monitoring. Given the current focus on energy efficiency, both from a power cost/usage standpoint and a regulation standpoint, data centre managers need to start monitoring their power, if they aren’t doing so. Intelligent PDUs and a power monitoring solution are key. SPM is Server Tech’s incredibly affordable, very comprehensive solution to manage data centre power.

Q Recently, Server Technology introduced the PDU Power Pivot,
can you talk us through this new product?

A Sure, the PDU Power PivotTM is a patent-pending new data centre PDU feature with a 90 degree rotatable power cord. This is a huge leap forward in data centre PDU innovation.

“The PDU Power Pivot feature is a game changer for the data centre industry. The flexibility that this innovation brings to the PDU market is remarkable – for installation and mounting options and for multiple racks and multiple facilities. We see data centres standardizing on the PDU Power Pivot feature going forward simply because of the flexibility and cost savings.

This is a PDU that can adapt as a company grows or changes its data centre.” The PDU Power Pivot is unique in that instead of having a static power cord; it has a 90-degree rotatable cord that can be positioned in a variety of ways. “Whether your data centre has a raised floor or an overhead busway or any other way to bring power to the rack, the PDU Power Pivot can rotate for optimal configuration. Plus it can install easily to support racks from multiple vendors.
The PDU Power Pivot also has an LED screen with an “auto-flip” display that actually inverts depending on the position of the PDU. The auto-flip display works just like your Smartphone so the customer doesn’t have to tilt their head to read what’s on the PDU. When you combine the auto-flip display with the PDU Power Pivot, you really have a data centre PDU that you can use anywhere.

Q The company has also announced a partnership with RF Code
– what does this involve and how will customers of both
companies benefit?

A We’ve been a solution partner with RF Code for quite some time and this new announcement is an even more comprehensive integration between RF Code’s Sensor Managers and SPM. The joint offering is an integration of RF Code’s wire-free Sensor Manager solution with Server Technology’s SPM data center power monitoring solution via an SPM API integration. Information gathered from RF Code’s sensors flows into SPM software, providing a consolidated view of power and environmental data. RF Code monitors and sends to SPM data about:
£ Power utilization, which RF Code’s sensor collects from a Server
Technology intelligent PDU
£ Temperature, humidity, air pressure fluid detection and more
£ Door open and close for greater security
£ Trending and alarming related to temperature, humidity, air
pressure and dew point

Q Are there any other strategic partnerships you have or are
looking to form in the coming months?

A We have several new partnerships and integrations in the works today. One of the newest is our integration with Opengear. We’re just announcing this now – it’s a complete remote access cellular solution that includes both power and out of band management. The joint solution is ideal for both data centres and remote locations. The combined offering integrates control of Server Technology’s Smart power distribution unit (PDU) product line with Opengear’s infrastructure management solutions and allows network administrators out-of-band control of systems connected to and powered by those products.

Q Are you able to share one or two brief examples of how
customers are benefiting from Server Technology products?
A When GoGrid, a company founded in 2001 with three data
centres in San Francisco, Virginia, and Amsterdam, began taking
off in 2009 with cloud computing technology, the company quickly realized it had a problem on its hands – it needed to have a better understanding of its rack level power and power management. Its quest quickly led the cloud infrastructure-as-a-service pioneer to Server Technology.

GoGrid deployed Server Tech CW8s – 120v, 30 outlet units and Server Tech’s Sentry Power Manager (SPM) monitoring system. GoGrid uses SPM to measure, monitor and trend power usage in its three data centers. GoGrid relies on the combination of SPM and Server Tech’s PDUs for critical power reports: power draw information, how power is used, alerts, alarms, environmental information and monitoring.

Syracuse University recently built a new data center that experts are calling one of the ‘greenest’ data centers ever created. To help accomplish this they deliver 3-Phase 415V power to the equipment racks. The data center is a mix of IBM Servers and Blades installed in SMC racks. By bringing 415V power directly to the devices in the cabinet there is a sizable efficiency gain both in the power distribution system and in the devices. Server Technology has a full line of Cabinet Power Distribution Units (PDUs) that support 415V. Today, the university data center is taking full advantage of the power being delivered to them. Using 415V, they are getting an efficiency gain with their power distribution system and with their devices. Using SPM, they can see their power usage globally, which allows them to trend and measure it.

Q The company has created a new Channel Partner Program –
please can you talk us through this initiative?

A Yes, our new Channel Partner Program is called Server Tech Power Rewards program. It’s designed to renew our commitment to working with channel partners, helping them sell our products and expand our reach to new customers. Mike Johnston, our new channel director of sales & marketing and two dedicated channel managers, Kathy Collins and Jerod Green, are dedicated to working with our channel partners to make them more successful.

Q What can we expect from Server Technology during 2013?
A More innovation! We’ve just launched:

The ProGrade 42
The ProGrade 42 is a new product offered by our sister company, PDUs Direct, but manufactured by Server Tech. It’s designed to be the ideal PDU for high density environments, with 42 outlets, it’s more narrow and more shallow and can be the one PDU that can support all the equipment in a rack, because of the number of outlets. And, our customers will like that they’re getting Server Tech quality at a PDUs Direct price, since PDUs Direct is known for their value pricing.
£ Alternating Phase Units - We’re excited about our new Alternating
Phase Power distribution units. This new innovation features
color coded outlets that make load balancing easy. By the sheer
randomness of how you plug equipment into these new PDUs,
your power load in your rack will be balanced.to help address this situation, including some new product launches.

 

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