Market research from the Uptime Institute shows a year on year increase in the cost and frequency of downtime in data centres, with one in six operators estimating the total cost incurred by their most recent downtime event as more than $1m. With power problems identified as the biggest cause of major outages, Paul Brickman from Crestchic Loadbanks explores whether the data centre market needs to invest more in the resiliency of back-up power.
As the world’s reliance on digital infrastructure increases, the cost and impact of data centre outages are becoming more pronounced. The role of data centres in supporting mission-critical business, economic and social activities means that the ability to operate, secure and recover systems quickly and efficiently is critical to the global economy.
Data centre outages: Frequent, damaging and expensive
As an advisory organisation focused on improving the performance, efficiency, and reliability of data centres, the Uptime Institute carries out regular market research, gathering unique insights from the industry. Data from the last three years suggests that bigger outages are occurring with disturbing frequency, as well as becoming more damaging and expensive.
Yet, while the industry’s focus on efficiency and reliability means that preparedness is in the data centre industry’s DNA, the figures tell a surprising story. Three-quarters of respondents admit that their most recent major outage was preventable and that power failure — which impacts everything on-site and can cause knock-on effects — is the most likely cause of major outages.
Back-up power resilience
As a business, our perception from working in the industry is that most data centres have robust strategies in place to deal with power blackouts. Most are already wise to the importance of testing power supplies to avoid downtime, with both generators and Uninterruptible Power Systems (UPS) universally accepted as a piece of critical business infrastructure. Generally speaking, problems arise when operators fail to regularly or adequately test and maintain their back up power systems.
The reality is, in many instances, that those in charge of maintaining backup power have no regular testing schedule, making an assumption that occasionally powering the generator up, or testing for a minimal period, will suffice. When power is mission-critical, as it is in a data centre environment, testing back-up power systems can make all the difference to whether they operate effectively when called upon. Load banks should be used to test, support, or protect a critical backup power source and ensure that it is working optimally should an outage occur.
Testing data centre power: the role of load banks
As the most recent report from the Uptime Institute clearly states: “The impact of a power outage is wide and deep, and the knock-on effects can be long-lasting – even if the initial failure is quickly fixed.” To avoid this eventually, all generators should be tested at least annually for real-world emergency conditions using a resistive-reactive 0.8pf load bank. As well as ensuring that the generator works efficiently under real operational conditions, the testing will also show how a system will cope with a voltage drop in its regulator. This is particularly important for data centres, where multiple generators might be operated in parallel. In this type of application, a problem with one generator could prevent other generators from working as they should. In addition to testing back-up power, load banks can also be used to heat load test the output of data centre servers, which exude enormous amounts of heat.
Properly planned and implemented, preventative maintenance strategies can minimise the likelihood of unscheduled breakdowns and outages, effectively negating the potential risk of costly commercial, reputational and legal issues.
For more information on Crestchic’s load banks, the need for testing of critical power supplies and advice on the various load bank options available, visit www.crestchicloadbanks.com
Northbridge Industrial Services (LON:NBI) has two core activities, Crestchic Loadbanks and Tasman Oil Tools. Crestchic is a specialist electrical equipment business which manufactures, sells and rents loadbanks and transformers from its base in Burton on Trent and has depots in France, Germany, Belgium, UAE and Singapore. Crestchic also has satellite locations in China and the USA.