Case Study

Dynamic Controls Inc. (DCI)

Protecting Data Centers from Unplanned Downtime and Failure

Dynamic Controls Inc. Combines Schneider Electric Ecostruxure with Stratus Edge Computing to Optimize Data Center Operation, Improve Reliability, and Extend Visibility across the Organization.

Challenges

  • The data center customer based in Downtown Denver, CO was not satisfied with the current set-up because of the variety of disparate solutions without a central and integrated digitalized core
  • Existing data center solution did not have power redundancy and operations fail-over

Solution

  • EcoStruxure Building Operation from Schneider Electric
  • EcoStruxure Power Management Expert (PME) from Schneider Electric
  • PowerLogic PM5560 Power Meters from Schneider Electric
  • ftServer by Stratus Technologies

Benefits

  • EcoStruxure PME integrated disparate systems from multiple vendors with Modbus and BACnet protocols
  • Fault tolerant system protects the 12,000 square foot data center from unplanned downtime with five-9 (99.999%) availability, even if there are power issues or when they do transfer tests
  • Footprint reduced from multiple computers to just one Stratus ftServer; Stratus simple architecture reduced costs and increased capacity for future growth due to less hardware, panel space, and wiring

What happens when a critical data center server shuts down due to power loss? Like a tree falling in the forest, does it make a sound? How do data center operators know what happened?

Thanks to advanced control and monitoring tools, data center teams can identify issues through alerts and notifications before a problem triggers a catastrophic chain of events. These tools also provide historical context in case of an unintended shutdown, collecting essential data that allow teams to prepare for the future.

“When events, alarms, and faults happen, you need to trace the entire history of why it happened and what transpired throughout the operation of the data center,” says Jay David, Senior Manager, Solutions Marketing at Stratus Technologies. “If you lose that, you lose the ability to investigate things that are important to your operations.”

In data centers, traceability means having access to essential data―without it, it is exceedingly difficult to operate, managers at the top can lose their ability to make real-time business decisions, and organizations can lose their competitiveness.

This was the case of a data center customer in Denver, Colorado. It lacked redundancy and failover, and its power monitoring delivered lackluster performance. It was in such poor condition that when a transfer test was performed on a circuit, the server plugged into it failed―it would lose visibility into everything.

The customer also faced an uphill battle with a disparate system, where different automation systems supervised the control and monitoring of the data center’s air-conditioning, switch gears, power quality meters, battery monitoring, PDUs, AB circuits, crack units, fire alarm system, and lighting for the whole building.

It is common for data centers to have systems from different vendors. The problem is: How do you integrate them together?

With a hodgepodge of disparate servers and machines, the data center customer had to log in to all of the different systems individually, which was time-consuming and inefficient. Unfortunately, this configuration was set up by the previous vendor and was not what the data center customer wanted, according to Rolla Starkey, Branch Manager at Dynamic Controls Inc. (DCI), a Schneider Electric EcoStruxure systems integrator.

In a precarious situation and at risk of unplanned downtime, the data center customer decided to restart from scratch.

“It was so important to them that they were willing to invest in ripping out a system that was only two years old,” explains Starkey.

The data center customer also brought in new talent, including an engineer and a trusted local general contractor, to replace their existing vendor.

Ultimately, the customer felt it was necessary to build out a new specification to do a near-complete overhaul of the entire data center control system.

When DCI heard about the public project bid, they specified a Schneider Electric solution―EcoStruxure Building Operation, EcoStruxure Power Management Expert (PME), and PowerLogic PM5560 Power Meters.

Another key component of DCI’s bid was the Stratus ftServer, a fully integrated, continuously available hardware and software platform for running tier 1 business critical workloads and manufacturing operations and control applications.

DCI won the project.

Bringing it all together

DCI installed EcoStruxure and all the other Schneider Electric software in the Stratus ftServer. This allowed the data center customer to consolidate all its automation and control software assets, which normally would be installed in multiple computers, into a single yet redundant virtualized edge platform.

“The beauty of what is happening is everything is coming into EcoStruxure. We are bringing all that into one location, one place for them to go and only one platform they need to worry about,” says Starkey.

The solution provides workload consolidation and operational resilience to the 12,000 sq foot data center, protecting it from unplanned downtime with 99.999% availability, while integrating all its disparate islands of automation. This resulted in lower costs and increased capacity for future growth due to less hardware, panel space, and wiring.

By shifting the customer to the EcoStruxure solution, DCI was able to integrate the customer’s disparate systems into a single, fully integrated, but more importantly, downtime free building management system.

“You can have the best software in the world, and even have the best EcoStruxure configuration. But if you have a server that fails all the time, then that software investment is worth nothing,” he says.

To protect the data center building management system from failure, DCI included Stratus ftServer to provide fault tolerance for application reliability. The server safeguards the data center customer from losing visibility by protecting the EcoStruxure software from unplanned downtime.

David also explains that organizations can run thin clients concurrently alongside other applications in the Stratus platform using virtualization. Combining that capability with EcoStruxure software extends the data center capabilities beyond the control room or panel because it allows operators to use remote mobile devices like cell phones, tablets, and laptops for monitoring and control.

“With thin clients running from the Stratus platform, it doesn’t matter where operations teams are located, they can be in the control room or at home and they’ll still be able to see the information from their mobile devices to address faults, problems, alarms, events, and anything that happens in that data center,” David says. “Whether it’s failure or just an alarm or an event, they’ll be able to go to address it immediately.”

“EcoStruxure with Stratus were the big winners because it could handle all of the data center operations, integrating all siloed operations on a single platform, and in the process, consolidating all the disparate data and islands of automation,” says Starkey.

The value of a trusted partner

When DCI was preparing their specification, it became clear that the data center customer needed high availability redundancy. Stratus was recommended to DCI, a company with a deep-seeded relationship with Schneider Electric.

Stratus also has a mature relationship with Schneider Electric. Together, they co-developed the EcoStruxure Micro Data Center solution.

“Think about it as a big data center, made into a compact version, equipped with Stratus’ continuous availability and Schneider Electric’s uninterrupted power in an enclosed rack. You can install it on a plant floor or a facility to run your HMI-SCADA along with other advanced solutions such as historian, MES, batch, asset performance, and AI,” says David, an active contributor on Schneider Electric Exchange, who is often involved in forum conversations about various data center topics.

He explains that Stratus Technologies’ solutions integrated with EcoStruxure provide customers with peace of mind. “Once these servers run, they almost always run forever, until they decide to replace it.” However, even if a component fails, the customer can still operate because of the ftServer’s instant continuous availability, data protection with redundant industry-standard components, synchronization, and replication, says David.

Stratus is informed automatically in case of failure, the issue gets flagged immediately, and the customer or service provider like DCI receives an email that a component failed.

“We automatically send a replacement subsystem to the customer,” he says. “In a lot of cases, the customer only finds out that something bad happened when they receive the replacement through the mail. That is really a testament to the reliability of our platforms, as well as our partnerships.”

In addition to solutions provided by Schneider Electric partners DCI and Stratus, a community for data center operators on Schneider Electric Exchange can help people find answers to address the significant challenges they face and collaborate on building innovative, reliable data center solutions.

So, are you ready to collaborate to help solve some of the most pressing challenges in the data center sector?

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