Emergency power for financial data centers

For any facility that handles key financial data, 100% up time is a must. When there is a power event, this kind of reliability depends on a seamless system of transferring power from primary to backup systems.


For any facility that handles key financial data, 100% up time is a must. When there is a power event, this kind of reliability depends on a seamless system of transferring power from primary to backup systems.

On Sep. 20, 2007, Consulting-Specifying Engineer magazine hosted a Webcast, “Specifying the Right Links: Emergency Power for Data Centers,” that took a close look at the design and technical details of switching from utility to on-site standby power and coordinating all the equipment in the emergency power system to protect vital financial data.


Brian Renner, PE, LEED AP, who at the time was vice president and CEE for A. Epstein and Sons International, Chicago, focused on the subject of specifying and installing switchgear, switchboards, and transfer switches for back up and emergency power systems.


“An excellent source of information is your local equipment suppliers. They have access to the latest information on the products that you will be using and I cannot stress enough to have a good relationship with your local representatives,” said Rener. “It is important to review codes, as we know some local codes use older national codes or codes with amendments and always be sure to review the codes where your project is located.”


Rener also pointed out there commonly is confusion among many who aren't experienced electrical engineers about the differences between switchgear and switchboard: “They have very important differences when you are considering using them for data centers. When one talks about switchboards, we're talking about devices designed and built to UL Standard 891. They have front access and sometimes rear access on the larger gear.” He pointed out that the breakers themselves are protective devices primarily fixed mount. Switchgears are primarily built to ANSI C 37 Standards. Almost always it has rear access and primarily drawout construction breakers.


Dennis DeCoster, executive principal at Mission Critical West Inc., Redondo Beach, Calif. followed up with a discussion of uninterruptible power supplies for these data facilities. “When we discuss reliability or availability figures, we'll assume proper commissioning, training, scripting, and security for the model site. That is a big assumption because the majority of data center load losses are the result of human error,” said DeCoster. “Nevertheless, the procedures to eliminate or reduce these problems are easy to install. Good commissioning eliminates failures caused by loose connections, grounding issues, UPS compatibility, and other factors we see from other data base.”


Finally, Kfir Godrich, chief technology officer for EYP Mission Critical Facilities pointed to some key issues in selecting the right emergency power for financial data centers. “First off, we need to understand what the new problems facing financial data centers now,” said Godrich. “One of the biggest problems is that we need to design a facility for say 10 years and we have technology refresh of 11 months. How can we bridge that?”


Godrich explained that these are the most problematic things in the design of data centers. “The other thing that we are seeing that is a new problem has to do with high density, how do I implant this high density? If we are building a new data center, we have quite a lot of solutions for doing that; in an existing data center it can be much more challenging,” said Godrich.


“Besides these issues, we have requested a high reliability we are talking about having the highest reliability having the right cost and we have been looking at the high density and how can we plug this in. Lately, we have come out with a new issue of energy efficiency and people are paying about 30 to 50% of the operational costs on utilities.”


The full Webcast is available in the Wecast archives at www.csemag.com

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