Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Data Center with Building Management System (BMS)

Most commercial buildings today integrate a number of different systems, ranging from power distribution to heating and cooling to physical security. Perhaps no facility is a better example than the data center which enables continuous operation of sensitive IT equipment and networks.

Keeping eyes on all the systems necessary for functioning a data center is virtually impossible unless you are using some form of management system.

Building Management System (BMS) with Data Center

Let's temporary ignore the networking and IT facilities, a typical data center must provide consistent, stable power, even in the event of a utility outage, as well as cooling, physical site security, lighting, fire suppression and other systems. Although many of these are common to a typical office building, their use in a data center requires added capabilities or special measures owing to the critical purposes. For instance, fire suppression should ideally enable extinguishing fires without destroying servers and other equipment.

Even with monitoring equipment in place, such as temperature and humidity sensors, power monitoring, various security measures and so on, it may be not practical to hire personnel to record the measurements or simply keep an eye on all these facilities. In this case, automation can be done through Building Management System (BMS).

A BMS handles the work of monitoring and recording data for various infrastructure systems. It also adjust the operation of these systems automatically to maximize the uptime and the operating efficiency. There are a few areas where building management systems can play an important role in the data center:

(1) Physical Security - A BMS can record who is entering secure areas of a facility via key cards or biometrics. Furthermore, it can implement various access-control measures, such as limiting access during certain times of the day or permitting certain personnel access to some areas but not others.

(2) Lighting Control - Servers may not need light to work, but people do. Unfortunately, owing to neglect or simply impracticality, lighting can become a major source of energy waste and thus decreased efficiency. A BMS can ensure that lights are shut off during off hours or when no motion is detected in a given area for some specified span of time.

(3) Efficient Cooling - As data centers move toward free cooling, air-side or water-side economizers and traditional mechanical cooling must function together in a manner that maximizes efficiency but still protects IT equipment. A BMS can balance these considerations. For instance, to run in economizer mode when the outside temperature is sufficiently low but to switch to CRAC units or water chillers when extra cooling is needed. If a hot spot develops, for instance, the BMS could increase air circulation at that point (if possible) or simply increase cooling to the appropriate area (or the entire facility).

(4) Power Distribution - Ensuring steady and clean power supply for the IT equipment is critical to keeping the data center running. A BMS monitors power conditions and provides alerts in the event of failure at some points in the power distribution system. In addition, the BMS can record data on power usage and conditions, enabling analysis for potential problems.

(5) Remote Monitoring Capability - When equipped with remote monitoring and alerts, the BMS can enable a facilities manager to keep an eye on conditions from another location—such as at home on a desktop computer or on the road via a laptop or tablet.

(6) Maintenance Scheduling - Data center maintenance is critical to keeping systems functioning. A BMS can indicate when infrastructure requires regularly scheduled maintenance, or when conditions merit preemptive maintenance to avoid a problem before it causes downtime. Automated maintenance reminders can prevent day-to-day tasks from causing employees and managers to forget periodic tasks that are necessary to the ongoing health of the facility.

(7) Enable Planning & Upgrades - The information that a BMS collects, in addition to providing a basis for maintenance and troubleshooting, can aid in planning for data center expansions or upgrades. For instance, power usage data relative to maximum capacity might indicate the need for greater capacity when additional IT equipment is installed.

(8) Improve Efficiency - Hardly the least concern of data center managers is increasing the efficiency of their facilities. Data collected by the BMS can be critical to determining which measures will increase efficiency and (potentially) by how much.

A building management system generally focuses on data center facilities. In some sense, a BMS could be considered a subset of the functions included in data center infrastructure management (DCIM). In the quest for greater integration and ultimate single-pane-of-glass monitoring and control of the data center, then, a BMS might be taken into account monitoring and controlling all aspects of the data center, including IT.

On the other hand, if you include IT functions in the scope of a BMS, then data center infrastructure management is simply a type of building management system specific to the needs of IT facilities.

Regardless of whether you differentiate DCIM from BMS, these systems illustrate the move of data centers toward greater integration of various systems and the centralized control and monitoring of the entire facility. A BMS enables data center managers to more promptly respond to problems as well as to identify, diagnose and address potential problems before they affect operations.

About Strategic Media Asia Limited

Strategic Media Asia (SMA, is a leading technical training and event organizer for corporations specialized in data center design & build, E&M facilities, telecom, ICT, finance and colocation. Currently, SMA delivers a series of data center trainings and qualification programs in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau.

All these events / training seminars are designed to support the leadership needs of senior executives (Chief Information Officers, IT Directors / Managers, Facilities Managers, company decision makers, etc.) and to provide useful and applicable knowledge.