John Collins 2016-09-20 13:26:36
Energy professionals know that backing up critical data means having the right power protection strategy in place to ensure that facility downtime doesn’t impact business. During the course of operation, power sags, surges, and outages are unavoidable and capable of damaging valuable equipment and cutting off access to important information. Because of this, it’s essential that energy professionals incorporate a robust power protection solution. Comprehensive power protection is critical to ensuring continuous uptime. The Mt. Washington Observatory (MWO), a non-profit scientific and educational institution in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, deployed an Uninterruptible Power System (UPS) in order to gather and store data for the National Weather Service’s forecast models, even during extreme weather. Why Power Protection Matters No company can afford to leave its assets unprotected from power issues. Here are just a few of the reasons why: • Even short outages can be trouble. Losing power for as little as one-fiftieth of a second can trigger events that may keep IT equipment unavailable for anywhere from 15 minutes to many hours. This downtime can be enormously costly for the business. Some experts believe the US economy loses between $200 billion to $570 billion a year due to power outages and other disturbances. • Utility power isn’t clean. By law, electrical power can vary widely enough to cause significant problems for IT equipment. According to current US standards, for example, voltage can legally vary from 5.7% to 8.3% under absolute specifications. That means that what utility services promising 208 volts actually deliver can range from 191 to 220 volts. • The problems and risks are intensifying. Today’s storage systems, servers, and network devices use components so miniaturized that they falter and fail under power conditions earlier-generation equipment easily withstood. • Generators and surge suppressors aren’t enough. Generators can keep systems operational during a utility outage, but they take time to startup, and provide no protection from power spikes and other electrical disturbances. Surge suppressors help with power spikes but aren’t capable of aiding with issues like power loss, under-voltage, and brownout conditions. • Availability is everything. Once, IT played a supporting role in the enterprise. These days, it’s absolutely central to how most companies compete and win. When IT systems are down, core business processes quickly come to a standstill. • Power costs must be managed. The cost of power and cooling has spiraled out of control in recent years. Data center managers are typically held responsible for achieving high availability while simultaneously reducing power costs. Highly efficient UPS systems can help with this goal, and products are available today that were not an option even a few years ago. Organizations like the MWO simply cannot afford to go without reliable backup power as part of a comprehensive power protection strategy. Several years ago, the MWO came to understand this important truth and took the necessary steps to ensure continuous uptime. Maintaining Uptime, Even in the World’s Worst Weather The MWO is a private, non-profit scientific and educational institution dedicated to advancing the understanding of the natural systems that create the Earth’s weather and climate. The summit of Mt. Washington is home to some of the most dangerous and unpredictable weather in the world, so MWO maintains a mountaintop station to conduct research, oversee educational programs, and collect real-time data that feeds into the National Weather Service’s forecast models. The observatory also provides daily reports for higher summits hikers and is the go-to weather source for search and rescue teams. Mt. Washington’s observations are taken every hour on the hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These observations are helping people understand what’s happening with the weather and are also very important from a public safety standpoint. Challenge On a clear day, you can see for more than 100 miles from the Mt. Washington summit, but 60% of the time, the summit is encased in fog. At an elevation of 6,288 feet, the observatory is prone to direct lightning strikes. During winter, conditions become even more treacherous with ice, snow, and blistering hurricane-force wind gusts—all of which can knock out electricity. Solution Years ago, MWO deployed a 15 kilovolt Eaton 9355 UPS with more than 170 minutes of runtime to help ensure that even when the most extreme weather hit, the organization could continue gathering and storing vital data. The solution—which replaced numerous APC desktop UPSs—was selected for its unparalleled reliability, central management capabilities, high efficiency, scalability, and ability to integrate into the building’s three-phase power system. When an outage happens, the 9355 immediately kicks on to keep MWO’s systems operating until its generator can power up. Although this usually takes a matter of seconds, without a highly reliable UPS to bridge the gap, those seconds could result in holes in the organization’s 80-year continuous weather history. “We find ourselves switching about six weeks out of the year between line power and generators,” says Cyrena-Marie Briedé, director of summit operations. “It’s the Eaton UPS that keeps us going during those times.” In addition to braving the wrath of Mother Nature, the observatory must also contend with an electricity supply line that is less than reliable. And, it’s only been in the last seven or eight years that MWO received line power from the valley. Before that, facilities on the mountaintop were powered solely by generator. “Having guaranteed power 24/7 means that we can collect data even in the most extreme conditions, which is why we’re here,” adds Roger Pushor, a weather observer and IT specialist at MWO. “It also means that our equipment is protected. Since we’ve had the Eaton UPS in place, we’ve never lost a piece of equipment connected to it. Our partners at the other end of the building are on the same grid power and they regularly lose equipment due to direct lightning strikes.” While the 9355 performed flawlessly through the years, by 2014, its batteries needed to be replaced. The MWO IT team reached out to Eaton to arrange a battery replacement and get the UPS on a service plan. Ahead of the replacement, Brian Tenters, Eaton’s southeast area service manager, conducted a site assessment and power usage study to determine the battery backup time required. “We like to get an overall view of the entire site and what its needs are,” explains Tenters. Discovering that MWO had reduced its equipment since the UPS was first installed, Tenters determined that 90 minutes of runtime—rather than the originally slotted 170 minutes—would be more than sufficient for the organization. “This gives them time to respond to a generator issue if it were to occur, and still have plenty of battery backup,” says Tenters. Tenters and another field technician, Phil Percoski, trekked to the top of Mt. Washington in August with four new strings of batteries for the observatory. “We safely removed 32 trays of batteries and two cabinets—about 3,840 pounds of materials. This helped MWO significantly consolidate its UPS solution, saving valuable space at the summit,” notes Tenters. Tenters and Percoski also performed comprehensive preventive maintenance on the 9355 as part of a new, two-year service agreement. Under the contract, Eaton will provide after-hours and preventive maintenance on the UPS and batteries twice a year, as well as an eight-hour response time in the event of an alarm. “By performing preventive maintenance, we can predict future catastrophic failures such as the batteries or capacitors going bad, and even just small failures like a fan or circuit board,” says Tenters. Tenters, Percoski, and all of Eaton’s field technicians have access to the latest firmware and upgrade kits and an extensive parts inventory to handle maintenance and repairs quickly. They’re backed by a customer support center and parts logistics and remote monitoring team at all times, to help coordinate service calls. “We’re in an extreme environment here. . . we have to fix things onsite and there’s no hardware store just down the street,” says Pushor. “Even in the best of conditions, we’re a difficult place to get to. Eaton still manages to provide service on a regular basis, and when we need it.” MWO also received Eaton’s PredictPulse service, which provides real-time monitoring of more than 100 UPS and battery alarms. Monthly reports on the UPS status include information on voltages, loads, temperature and humidity, and also summarize battery events, availability percentage, and comparative status against recommended specification and the top 10 performance and environmental parameters. If any type of power anomaly is detected, MWO will be notified immediately. An additional benefit of PredictPulse is that Eaton remotely monitors the UPS and batteries at all times. This allows for some issues to be resolved remotely—often before a customer even knows a potential problem exists. In instances where a site visit is required, Eaton will automatically dispatch a technician within the specified response time window. “Even though we’re staffed 24/7, we’re not staffed with technical folks 24/7,” explains Pushor. “I’m really excited about having PredictPulse provide email notices if there is something wrong with the UPS.” The upgrade to PredictPulse came with an Eaton environmental monitoring probe, too, which Pushor deems a “super bonus.” The small, single module enables remote monitoring of environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity. “Now I can actually know what’s going on in my computer room and know if the temperatures or humidity are going out of bounds through email notifications. This saves me having personnel onsite to monitor our equipment,” he reports. Results With a more compact UPS solution, real-time system updates, and the addition of an environmental monitoring probe, MWO is in an excellent position to preserve its 80-year weather history and capture as much data as possible during extreme weather. “Having the Eaton UPS in place means that MWO is guaranteed 100% power 24/7. This allows us to collect weather data for the National Weather Service that is ultimately fed into the hourly models for forecasting the Northeast,” sums up Pushor. “It’s clear that the observatory has chosen the best here.” With the upgraded 9355 in place, MWO is able to: • Ensure the highest availability and uptime and protect critical equipment even in the most extreme weather, when power reliability and quality aren’t guaranteed; • Keep a constant pulse on equipment with PredictPulse; • Monitor computer room conditions with the environmental monitoring probe; • Maintain the health of its UPS solution and get help quickly with an Eaton service plan. Conclusion It’s critical that organizations implement reliable backup power management solutions as part of their overall strategy. MWO provides a strong example of one such institution that understood the importance of having reliable power protection solutions in place and took the needed steps to make its vision a reality. Businesses should take a good look at the example of MWO when reviewing their own power management needs. BE John Collins is the product line manager for Eaton Corporation.
Published by Forester Media. View All Articles.