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In today's 24/7 on demand world, mission-critical business systems must be available 100% of the time. Downtime cannot be tolerated, which is where an uninterrupted power supply can assist. At Uninterruptible Power Supplies Ltd, we pride ourselves on delivering industry-leading power protection solutions combined with service excellence to ensure systems are 'Always ON'.

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    The term Internet of Things, or IoT, may sound as broad-brush as you can imagine but in reality it accurately encapsulates the breadth of devices which are or soon will be connected to the Internet. What’s more, it is an area set to witness sustained growth in the coming years. With this rapid increase in the number of connected devices, there will, understandably, be a corresponding rise in demand for real time data processing. As vital components of the data centre infrastructure, UPSs must offer sufficient scalability, flexibility and online availability to meet this expected demand – and must do so while complying with data centre real estate and budget constraints.
     
    In this article, Kenny Green, Technical Support Manager at Uninterruptible Power Supplies Ltd, a Kohler company, looks at how operators can use today’s modular UPS technology to manage the implications of the Internet of Things.
     
    The Internet of Things (IoT) is about adding a spark of intelligence, communications capability and an IP address to everyday objects in our home, office, factory or leisure environments – or in the transportation we use to move between them. On a personal scale, examples include fridges that become data sensors, reporting on the stock levels and freshness of their contents, sprinklers activated by moisture sensors or factory equipment that reports on its own health and need for preventative maintenance.
     
    For the big picture, the IEEE is forecasting “Smart homes and workplaces, self-healing power grids, digital factories, cleaner transportation and immersive entertainment” as just a few examples of the IoT’s potential. The organisation is preparing a new ‘IEEE Standard for an Architectural Framework for the IoT’, intended to act as a catalyst for continued IoT growth, advancement and associated development of economic opportunities.
     
    This growth is expected to be dramatic, with Gartner forecasting 26 billion devices installed by 2020. These deployment levels will generate large quantities of data that must be processed in real time. This will impact on data centre workloads, creating new security, capacity and analytics challenges. The enormous number of devices, coupled with the sheer volume, velocity and structure of IoT data, means that datacentre managers will need more forward-looking capacity management to proactively meet the business priorities associated with the IoT.
     
     
    Impact on data centres
     
    A key challenge to data centre operators arises from the IoT’s innately distributed nature. Connecting large volumes of such distributed data back to a single data centre site will not be technically or economically viable. Instead, organisations seeking to integrate an IoT structure will have to aggregate raw data in multiple, distributed mini data centres for initial processing. The resulting, refined data can then be forwarded to a central site for further treatment.
     
    The demand on these mini data centres will be heavy. The large volume of data handled, in addition to creating its own heavy processing load, will probably make full data backup unaffordable. This will create a need for selective backup operations, in turn requiring even more processing.
     
    These data centres must exhibit high availability, as they process real time data that would be lost if not captured on arrival. The IoT’s expected scale of operation makes efficiency essential as wasted energy at these levels translates into significant energy and cooling costs, and possibly green credibility damage. Flexibility and easy scalability is also important, allowing data centre capacity to cost-effectively track rapid growth in IoT device populations.
     
     
    UPS Topologies
     
    If high availability, efficiency and scalability are essential to the data centre ICT equipment, these attributes are equally critical to the uninterruptible power supply (UPS) supporting it. Today’s UPS systems are best able to meet such challenges if they are built using modern, modular topology.
     
    Advances in semiconductor technology, especially IGBT devices, have led to the transformerless technology now found within most modern UPSs. The inverter output ac voltage level from these is sufficiently high to drive the load directly, without need for a step-up transformer.
     
    Transformerless technology has become ubiquitous because it offers so many advantages. These include improved efficiency with a higher input power factor, lower input current harmonic distortion (THDi) and lower audible noise. Importantly, both capital andoperating costs are significantly reduced. Users seeking the ultimate in UPS availability, flexibility and cost-effectiveness can take advantage of hot-swappable, modular UPS topology; an advanced concept made possible through transformerless technology’s hugely reduced size and weight.
     
     
    The hot-swappable, modular approach
     
    Fig.1 below is an example of a hot-swappable, modular system. The UPS rack on the left has three modules, while that on the right has five. Each module is an entirely self-contained UPS of up to 100 kVA capacity. Because it is hot-swappable, if it fails it can be removed simply and quickly, without having to take the UPS system off-line. It is just as easy to ‘plug in’ extra modules to gain extra capacity. Adding modules to a rack in this way is known as vertical scaling; this can be done without needing extra space, cabling or installation effort. If the rack is full, further capacity can be provided by populating additional racks – ‘horizontal scaling’. Large IoT device population growth could therefore be accommodated quickly and easily, and without interruption to power.
     
     
     
    Fig.1: Rackmounted modular UPS configurations
     
     
    This flexibility also allows redundant configurations to be set up easily and efficiently. A 120 kVA load, for example, could be supported by either a pair of non-modular standalone 120 kVA units – one of which is redundant - or by four 40 kVA rack-mounting UPS modules, totalling 160 kVA capacity. If one module fails, the remaining three have 120 kVA capacity between them, which is enough to fully support the load. This is known as n+1 redundancy, where, in this case, n=3. During normal operation the redundant configuration’s capacity exceeds the load by only 40 kVA, rather than 120 kVA as in the standalone example. Capital expenditure on unnecessary extra capacity has been reduced, while each module’s loading has been increased to 75%, compared with 50% each for the 120 kVA standalone pair.
     
    As mentioned earlier, high availability is essential to avoid loss of data arriving in real time from arrays of IoT devices. Redundancy improves availability by providing resilience to failure, but modular systems with hot swapping capability can achieve availability levels up to 99.9999%, often known as ‘six nines availability’. Mean Time To Repair (MTTR) is a key determinant of availability – and this figure drops from around 6 hours for a standalone system to half an hour for a modular system. This is because modular system capacity can be immediately restored with a healthy module while the faulty unit is taken away for repair; by contrast, a non-modular system must remain off line while it is repaired internally.
     
     
    Balancing performance and cost
     
    For UPSs supporting business critical loads such as an on-line banking network, a hot-swap, modular system as above is the best choice as it offers the highest possible power availability. However other UPS operators within less critical applications may wish to trade off some power availability against cost. The Power Availability (PA) chart shown in Fig. 2 below shows the trade-off choices that exist.
     
     
     
    Fig.2: Power Availability (PA) chart, showing different UPS types
     
     
     
     
    The PA chart categorises systems into quadrants according to how they offer high availability through redundancy and hot-swappability. Data centre managers can choose the solution that best balances their budget and level of need for high availability. For example, a standalone UPS, which is neither hot-swappable nor redundant, provides normal power availability based entirely on UPS reliability.
     
    Power availability can be improved to some extent with a fault tolerant system that has redundant components, although many of these – including a high number of processor electronics and other critical items - are not hot-swappable. Such systems offer high power availability as they continue to support the load if a component fails. However a failed component can often mean that the entire UPS needs replacement; the repair will be expensive and time-consuming, causing system downtime and major inconvenience to the data centre manager.
     
    Modular UPSs, like the fault-tolerant systems, offer high power availability. With multiple hot-swappable components, and often with redundant batteries, they are typically used for multiple servers and critical applications equipment. Their main advantage over a fault-tolerant UPS is that all main components susceptible to failure can be hot-swapped, eliminating planned downtime during a service call.
     
    However, modern, modular UPS systems perform best on the PA chart due to all their major components, including power electronics, batteries and processor electronics being hot-swappable and redundant. As discussed above, these systems offer the highest levels of power availability and power protection for data centres and other IT operations currently available. They also make accommodation of future growth simpler, with easier handling of small, light units if the organisation moves or expands.
     
     
    Meeting the IoT challenge
     
    Growth in the IoT and its demand for real-time data processing is forecast to be dramatic, yet the IoT is also new and unpredictable, as is how technology and user’s needs will develop. With this in mind, UPSs must offer sufficient flexibility, through their scalability and availability credentials, to meet these potentially unknown challenges. At the same time, they must remain suitably space, cost and energy efficient to comply with data centre operators’ space and budget constraints.  Modular UPS technology has already proved itself to be well suited to dealing with changing requirements and is well placed to play an important role in managing exponential growth in IoT data requirements, both now and in the future.
     
     
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    Uninterruptible Power Supplies Limited’s (UPS Ltd.) latest industry survey has revealed that concerns over falling power security is becoming a significant issue for those working in the IT and data centre arena. Almost three quarters (74.64 per cent) of the 2000 people polled agreed with the statement ‘the reliability of power in the UK is going to become a major concern for my business within the next ten years’.
     
    The survey results reflect recent power continuity announcements made by the National Grid within its Winter Outlook, which disclosed that the amount of spare capacity in the UK electricity network has fallen once again, to the lowest levels since 2006. This winter, due to planned closures and unscheduled breakdowns at several power generation facilities, redundant capacity is likely to be in the region of four per cent. In 2011 the margin was 17 per cent.
     
    This bleak forecast, combined with the severe weather seen last winter and recent ‘weather bomb’ scares means UK businesses are apprehensive about what the future may bring, as Alan Luscombe, Marketing Director for UPS Ltd. explains:
     
    It is easy to get caught up with the tabloid media’s alarmist headlines and start to believe that we’ll be returning to 1970’s style rolling blackouts. Bar an act of god, that isn’t going to happen but that doesn’t change the fact that the National Grid is having to add lots of extra measures to ensure we all keep our lights on and our kettles boiling. Some large businesses are likely to be asked to cut power usage in the evenings but they will be the type of operations where that can happen without an issue. For data centre and IT operators however, the reason to be concerned, at least in the immediate term, is the risk from an unseen event – another heavy storm or a major issue at a power generation facility. It is in one of these scenarios where critical systems could be affected, with little or no redundant capacity to pick up the slack. For most data centre operators and managers, this would be catastrophic to their business, making contingency planning pretty vital.”
     
    "Equally, for the vast majority who already have an uninterruptible power supply system in place, now is definitely the time to review current system capacity and ensure that your load has not grown beyond the limits of the UPS system or standby generator. If you own and operate modular UPS systems, where capacity can be added without taking the system offline, now is the time to adding that extra module to ensure your levels of protection are sufficient,” added Luscombe. 
     
    At Uninterruptible Power Supplies Limited we offer free, no obligation UPS health checks for peace of mind that your power protection systems are set up correctly, ensuring that if the power falters your business will continue as usual. Sign up for a free health check here.
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    Stuart has been with UPS Ltd for over 8 years and has a wealth of experience and knowledge of both our company and our products. If you have any urgent requirements or wish to arrange an introductory meeting with Stuart, please contact us on 01256 386 700. Alternatively, if you wish to contact Stuart directly, his contact details are as follows:
     
    Mobile: 07921 470 115
     
     
     
     
     
     
    You can find the contact details for all the Area Sales Managers HERE

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