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Data Center Retrofitting: The Role of Monitoring

Data Center Retrofitting: The Role of Monitoring

Data centers must meet constantly evolving needs. Trends such as increasing power density, cloud computing, edge computing, and data analytics ultimately place differing demands on the data center. This often requires that improvements be made to existing facilities to enable the facility to meet the new demands. This process often is referred to as “retrofitting”.

Retrofitting possibilities are as broad as the data center’s evolving needs, but generally, they provide a cost-effective option for increasing efficiency or capacity without disrupting your building infrastructure or operations. A retrofit can address an acute problem or be part of an ongoing enhancement strategy. It can be as simple as adding wireless monitoring or as complex as changing out mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) utilities.

Retrofitting starts, progresses and ends with data collection

Regardless of the retrofit objectives, you need data to determine where to focus your efforts, whether or not those efforts are achieving desired goals, and how to refine your efforts to continuously improve results. Identify the type of data to collect based on your overall retrofit objectives.

Improve infrastructure efficiency
Even if this isn't the primary retrofit goal, there are always opportunities to increase efficiency and decrease operating costs.

  • Track power usage of high energy use equipment like heating and cooling systems, generators, UPSs and transfer switches and determine if new equipment is necessary.
  • Track temperature and humidity at the cabinet, aisle and room level to find opportunities for cooling optimization that doesn’t rely on turning up the AC or investing in expensive new equipment that may not be necessary.
  • If new equipment is necessary, track expenses after the new equipment is installed to report cost savings.
  • Review cabinet and circuit level power use

Optimize or increase capacity
There may be opportunities to optimize existing equipment before needing to invest in new equipment.

  • Track power use at the cabinet level
  • Look for abandoned power
  • Seek opportunities to balance loads
  • If new equipment is installed, benchmark energy use of old equipment and compare against new equipment energy use to determine cost savings.

Improve operational efficiency
New equipment can reduce operating expenses, but automated processes can save time and make better use of your team’s time.

  • Automating data collection ensures consistency and frees valuable resources to focus on reviewing the data. You can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data.
  • Leverage remote alert systems so people aren’t required to be onsite to hear local alarms; customize the criteria for triggering an alert and choose who gets notified.
  • Make the data easily accessible to the right decision makers

Add monitoring to automate data collection

Implementing power and environmental monitoring can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. It should be a simple and low risk initiative that quickly provides tangible benefits through the data it delivers. Here are our customers’ best practices for adding monitoring.

  1. Choose a solution that scales with your needs. Make sure you can add monitoring in steps and change your plans based on what you’ve learned. Avoid having to commit to an all-or nothing proposition.
  2. 80% of the value will come from paying attention to 20% of your systems. Focus on the biggest areas of need first to get the most value.
  3. Most things can be improved by 10% just by paying attention. Make sure the information you gather is easy to pay attention to.
  4. Avoid analysis paralysis. If you knew everything you needed to monitor, you probably wouldn’t need monitoring at all. Just do it. Deploying monitoring and adapting based on what you learn generally costs less than the RFP in search of the “ultimate” solution.
  5. Monitor what matters when it matters. Things change. Make sure your solution lets you easily focus on what you need to know, when you need to know.
  6. Gadgets do not save money, information does. A monitoring system is not about hardware or software. It is there to give you valuable information. Everything else is just a distraction and you should avoid it. Your system should make it easy to get the relevant information quickly and to share it.
  7. A monitoring system needs to show you the “so what” -- where the savings are.
  8. Keep it simple. Adding real-time monitoring does not require replacing your unmetered equipment with new, but expensive equipment that has built-in metering. You can make any device a smart device with the right monitor.

In the face of change, maintain monitoring fundamentals

Keeping up with changing data center demands does not mean constantly replacing your critical infrastructure with new components. But getting the most out of your existing infrastructure does require a clear understanding of the demands being placed on it, and in a data center, that kind of awareness is only possible through monitoring. This awareness will help plan, accomplish and verify any retrofitting needs you may have, regardless of the scope or complexity.

Walk through your options

If you are considering a data center retrofit and need help determining how monitoring can help meet your goals, please contact Packet Power monitoring experts to walk through your options.

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