Circuit overloads, unbalanced loading and the importance of power monitoring

Circuit overloads, unbalanced loading and the importance of power monitoring

Power monitoring can help data center managers be smart about electricity usage.

The data center is teeming with pitfalls that can lead to downtime, not the least of which entail power-related problems. Electricity usage is a hugely important metric for data center managers, as ensuring that electricity isn't being arbitrarily consumed can stave off exorbitant costs down the road. In fact, a recent report by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that collectively, data centers consumed 40 percent more energy than needed in 2014. This is a lot of wasted natural resources, and lost money.

Poor power management doesn't just waste resources; it also creates serious risks for downtime that, for some data centers, may be extremely difficult - if not impossible - to recover from.

Let's take a look at some of the signs that it might be time to rethink power monitoring in your data center:

Circuit overloads

Circuit protection is an extremely important component of power distribution in the data center for several reasons. Temperature-based switches are triggered when electricity consumption reaches unsafe levels that could potentially cause damage to electronics, for example, fried circuitry. Furthermore, servers, cooling components and other hardware will last significantly longer if they operate within certain voltage windows. Too much voltage does not necessarily have to qualify as a spike to cause problems. It just has to be higher than optimal temperatures. 

That said, data center managers who are constantly resetting breakers may have a serious problem on their hands. For one thing, breakers can only be reset so many times before they have to be replaced, so it's important to ensure that the exception doesn't become the rule here. 

Unbalanced loading

Load balancing is important to ensuring that servers are only receiving as much traffic as they can handle. Some data centers may be at greater risk of overloading servers than others, and this can result in greater consumption of electricity, overheating and damage to hardware. In cases of unbalanced loading, breakers don't necessarily have to be kicking into action. While circuit overloads are certainly a tell-tale sign of unbalanced loads, the opposite can also be true.

According to an Anthesis Group study, there are 10 million zombie servers currently in use worldwide. The Wall Street Journal noted that the amount of electricity being used by these collective servers could generate energy for approximately eight large power plants. This highlights several important factors. Firstly, it may be time for data center management to reassess how many servers are actually needed in facilities. Secondly - and this is especially true in facilities that regularly experience circuit overloads - perhaps more can be done to create a more balanced data center environment. 

Power monitoring can help

They say knowledge is power, and when it comes to data centers, this couldn't be more literally true. The ability to know how much power is being consumed in specific sets of servers can help ensure that electricity is not being wasted on comatose servers - or conversely, that certain cabinets or racks are not being overloaded. Power monitoring solutions sense this information and aggregate it into a single pane of glass for data center managers. Some solutions, such as Geist Power Monitoring, also come with environmental sensor ports than can help ensure humidity and other climate-related metrics that keep data centers running under optimal conditions.

Power management is one of the core responsibilities in the data center, and the importance of ensuring that a facility is leveraging the right power equipment cannot be overstated. But at the end of the day, power monitoring is the only way for data center managers to improve resource allocation, prolong the life hardware and electronics and most importantly, achieve operational excellence.