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Ways to Save Energy With Hot Standby Power Supplies

Derek DiGiacomo, senior director for energy-management programs and business continuity, SCTE 



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Imagine the impact of a data center outage. The consequences and costs for each minute without power can be devastating to companies that rely on them for co-location. Data centers contain sensitive electronic equipment running software responsible for anything from basic entertainment to lifeline services. Availability and reliability are absolute musts. Redundancy is also required to support the services in these buildings: from mechanical devices, such as cooling systems, to power distribution (often configured in A and B feeds of energy). Redundancy at the component level is also embraced. At the heart of the data center are hundreds and sometimes thousands of IT devices.  

Derek DiGiacomo, senior director for energy-management programs and business continuity, SCTE

All of the IT devices, such as servers, storage platforms, routing, switching and security appliances; depend on power. Often, pieces of technology installed in the data center rack will include not one but two different power supplies. These power supplies from familiar “big name” original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) usually ship with both power supplies active.  That is, each power supply is on and ready to provide power to the necessary chips, boards, fans and memory that enable the application(s) found on the device. 

Taking a moment to plan and carefully craft the mode of each power supply across the entire pool of devices working in the data center is vital. Proper balance of A or B power supply across A and B power distribution channels should be adopted.  

An evenly balanced load of A and B power enables a few things. First, it creates equilibrium so as not to maximize the capacity of supply. Second, having a balanced, carefully documented and well-considered configuration of plug-to-feed schema can create redundancy. So, if a device’s power supply should fail, the backup supply can quickly be enabled. Finally, if an entire power feed (either A or B) should fail, then the remaining capacity on the feed should be able to provide the necessary power while the problem is corrected. 

The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) is the official American National Standards (ANSI) development body for the cable broadband industry. Our standardization work includes a focus on energy and sustainability commonly known in the industry as Energy 20/20. 

One of our pending standards defines the implementation of network platform hot standby powering strategies. Hot standby, the practice of reducing the locations of transformation of electricity from multiple power supplies to a single or group of power supplies, thus increases efficiency and decreases energy lost to transformation at multiple points. The pending standard defines how a cable broadband operator can effectively leverage hot standby modes in information technology equipment to reduce energy consumption.  

In major facilities like data centers, single devices are rarely commissioned without a backup “twin” acting in unison or at the redundant-ready. Migrating from a dual-redundant hot standby power supply to simple standby is now an option thanks to advances in electronic controls from the OEMs.  Software control and rapid response power supplies enable more significant energy savings at similar resiliency as the hot standby configuration. Sensor and circuit level monitoring advances also provide solid support to adopt a simple hot standby mode in critical devices.  

Alerting and monitoring device profiles, power distribution and circuits should be examined and adjusted to support the advanced energy savings method. Creating a mesh system of devices and power feeds in odd/even or random live conditions should continue to provide data center operators piece of mind as well as energy savings. 

In an environment where it can be hard to disrupt traditional means of operation, technology has provided the way to script, adopt and maintain the most energy-efficient mode of operations. According to DataCenter Knowledge, “US data centers consumed about 70 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2014, the most recent year examined, representing 2% of the country’s total energy consumption, according to the study.” 

That is quite a lot of power.  Although cutting the number of active power supplies in half is not always possible, taking a hard look at how many active power dual power supplies can be turned down demonstrates our opportunity to save power and ultimately building owners’ money. 

Let’s leverage SCTE’s latest standard and define additional standards and operational practices that continue to drive advanced energy efficiency.

Derek DiGiacomo is the Senior Director of Energy Management Programs and Business Continuity at SCTE®, a subsidiary of CableLabs®. Under DiGiacomo’s leadership, SCTE, the not-for-profit member organization for cable telecommunications, has seen a dramatic 50% reduction in the dependency on grid power using a renewable power-based microgrid that extends critical system runtime to seven days on average. Derek is a National Renewable Energy Labs (NREL) 2017 Energy Exec alumni.

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