Most Data Centers Need Better Views into Power Management


Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld once referred to the "known knowns" and the "known unknowns" when describing the fog of war. But those same terms can be just as easily applied to the data center, particularly when it comes to assessing ways to reduce power consumption.


According to a recent survey from Emerson Network Power, a large majority of enterprises are woefully deficient when it comes to monitoring power infrastructures and other business continuity systems. The survey of more than 100 data centers revealed that barely a third employ a single, dedicated monitoring system rather than a patchwork of narrowly focused systems. Only about 30 percent are monitoring more than 90 percent of their equipment to prevent or respond to outages, while nearly 12 percent say they conduct no monitoring at all.


The need to provide a single, cohesive view of the entire data center infrastructure has been a driving trend in power management circles of late. Eaton Corp. recently released the new Enterprise Power Manager (EPM) software stack, which offers the ability to oversee an unlimited number of enclosure power distribution units (ePDUs) and uninterruptible power systems (UPSs) through a single user interface.


The need for greater visualization of up-to-the-minute data center conditions is leading some management vendors to acquire it from third parties. Raritan, a Somerset, N.J., specialist in data center power management, recently purchased the dcTrack software stack from Nassoura Technology Associates, giving the firm granular insight into server energy usage, cooling efficiencies and even circuit-breaker loads and rack availability.


On another level entirely, however, is the ability for data center devices themselves to become their own monitors, and pull energy from whatever source happens to be available, even ambient heat. That's one of the sci-fi applications for some experimental sensors that Intel is working on as part of its power optimization efforts. At the very least, the company says its WISP (wireless identification and sensing platform) will be able to report data center conditions back to a central automation suite, where it can be used to, say, divert data loads away from hot areas or run simulations to anticipate changing conditions.


Advice has been coming from all corners on both major and minor steps that data centers can take to reduce energy costs. But unless you know where your power is coming from and where it's going, any structure or operational changes will be little more than guesswork.