ISC   Information Support Concepts, Inc
A Certified Woman Owned Business Enterprise (WBE)

Issue 2

Publisher:  Jack Burlin                                Editor:  Patti Hammonds

August 5, 2005

IN THIS ISSUE
Your success story            Monthly product special            Kevinisms            Product information          

Articles of Interest:  Don't get zapped by poor electrical planning              Part 2:  "When is a toilet like a salt shaker?"

Your Success Story

We have a Flexiunit 19" Rackmount Rack and a 30" Wide High Capacity Cable Management Rackmount Rack in our  Showroom/Data Center.  We have been impressed with the quality and affordability of the Flexiunit products and their responsiveness to our needs.  We unconditionally recommend Flexiunit for Datacom ,Telecom and Server Rack configurations.
       Peter Proulx, RCDD
       CEO, Premcom

Monthly Product Special

RPM 1601 - Remote Power Manager

IPC-8 - Remote Power Manager
with environmental monitoring

 

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In line with this month's theme of electrical planning and control, ISC can provide a variety of Remote Power Management solutions.  We can even provide environmental monitoring as an integral part of your ability to remotely control individual outlets from anywhere in the world. 
Call 800-458-6255 to discuss your application and requirements with your account manager. 
Mention the August newsletter article for free freight*!

 

*Free freight will be applied to retail customers only, and at the standard ground rate.  Valid through August 31, 2005.  Not valid with any other offers.


Don't Get Zapped by Poor Electrical Planning
Article by Bruce Gain, From Processor, February 25, 2005      

Even The Most State-Of-The-Art Data Centers Aren’t Worth Much Without The Right Electrical Infrastructure

Given the complexity of today's IT management field, it is easy to forget that electrical power is the one underlying element that makes everything happen.

Proper electrical planning is thus absolutely essential, whether your data center is housed in an older or a new building. Needless to say, poor planning and failure to take into account a data center's present and future electricity needs can lead to a grocery list of potential disasters, including data loss, equipment damage, and a complete shutdown of the data center.

Not An Exact Science

Planning for electricity requirements involves many uncertainties that unfortunately make the task that much more difficult. In addition to accounting for growth projections to accommodate future equipment needs, other constantly fluctuating variables, including environmental temperatures, server workloads, and other unknowns, must be factored in.

"One of the most dangerous assumptions people make about data centers these days is that they are in a stable environment. They think that when you turn a machine on, the power is going to run at a certain level and that you can depend on that," says Rick Sawyer, director of data center technology for APC. "What we find is that as servers have high-temperature chips in them and they phase back on the power to control the power usage, the power fluctuations in a data center are instead much more dynamic than in the past."

Realistic Assessments

Many IT admins fail to also take into account future maintenance needs their data center's electrical system will require. Often a third of all branch circuits for individual machines, for example, must be changed every year. "People don't consider that [replacing branch circuits] represents much activity in a data center, but if you have 4,000 circuits, a thousand of them or more may be changed sometime during the year," Sawyer says.

"You must plan on a data center where circuit changes are easy to do with a minimal amount of impact on ongoing operations. Data centers are much more dynamic than people think, both in the changes that involve circuits and the loads on those particular circuits themselves."

Standardize Those Procedures

IT staff changes, like in any department in corporate America, are common. Today's competent assistant IT admin you like and trust may leave, and you are then faced with delegating electrical infrastructure management to a new hire. However, implementing a set of clear procedures in writing that apply to data center electrical installation and maintenance can offer a black-and-white instruction set of what to do and what not to do. A set of procedures apply regardless of whether you are building a new data center or are adding equipment. Their necessity also applies to large and small data centers.

"The problems get larger in scope, and they get larger in importance. But it is exactly the same types of problems that keep cropping up regardless of whether it is a data center of one or two racks or up to 300," Sawyer says. "The real trick to the thing is to standardize your procedures and equipment to make everything as easy to do and as easy to replicate as possible so that you drive out that human error that you tend to introduce in data centers. Human error is the cause of probably about 70% of the outages."

For example, the relatively simple task of installing a circuit can be fraught with risks that procedures can help to avoid. "When you have a panel open with a lot of different circuits inside of it, if someone were to accidentally trip a breaker or ground out a wire in the process, they could take out a whole rack worth of equipment or even multiple racks," Sawyer says.

Set procedures also apply to vendors, of course, which will likely carry most of the workload when it comes to setting up a data center's electrical system. "Vendor management is a huge issue because you may have a vendor that deals with the electrical power, but you don't consider what happens when someone comes in to deal with your network cabling," Sawyer says. "For example, someone could raise floor panels up and pull cables through, and in doing so they may unplug something accidentally underneath the floor. So you not only have to manage the vendors and their specific trades, but you have to make them aware of other sensitivities within the data center they have to work around."

Your Friendly Neighborhood Electrician

Properly grounding servers to prevent system damage and data loss, guaranteeing personal safety, and other similar tasks should be left up to a qualified electrician. This is where the national electrical codes come in, which necessitates finding an electrician with specific credentials.

For example, a master certified electrician (or an electrical engineer when a building is in the construction phase) is required to verify that the entire server and network systems meet the national code. "Someone has to come in and say ‘OK, this is what you have to do to bring this up to code,' " Steve Roberts, an IT administrator for Maersk Sealand, says. "You need a company with a track record in server room electrical installations, and you probably need an electrical engineer or at least a master electrician."

Preparing For The Worst

The specter of power outages and surges also exists, of course. Electrical planning must thus involve present and future needs for power strips when surges occur, for example.

For blackouts, installing the necessary equipment in preparation of a power outage is largely based on how mission-critical your data center's operation is. "There may not be a 24/7 sensitivity, but [power must be guaranteed] only for certain time periods," Sawyer says. "2 a.m. until 4 p.m. didn't matter for a karaoke bar client we had. Other clients won't allow any alterations around the tax period in April, while power outages in August don't matter as much."

by Bruce Gain
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Kevinisms
A Kevinism is a funny or intriguing statement or idea from our Vice President of Sales, Kevin Hunt.  Kevin is a big fan of Sandra Bullock, Pizza Inn black olive pizza, and Dr. Pepper (not necessarily in that order).  He is not a big fan of Chinese food, seafood, or other types of "dead" stuff.

Recently, Kevin and his wife Robin have been  looking for a new house.  One of the key features the new house needs in order to be considered as a candidate is a really nice back yard.  They recently found such a house, but were curious as to how the house avoided flooding in the heavy rains we sometimes have in Texas.  Robin could not find any French drains to divert the water from the back yard (which sits higher than the house).  Kevin said he did not really care about the lack of French drains, as he was more interested in Italian drains.  He explained you could tell the difference by the better workmanship and more detail in Italian drains. 

I have refrained from asking him about French doors, so as not to spark a discussion about how Italian doors would be better.

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Product Information

ISC was recently saluted by the Arlington ISD (Independent School District) for a generous donation to the Wimbish Elementary School's science program.

ISC has provided a large number of classroom training tables to the Arlington ISD in the past.  Follow this link to the appropriate page in our catalog:

Computer Class Room Tables for Schools

 

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Common Electrical Planning Pitfalls

With the proper planning and procedures, your electrical system should serve your data center's needs for years to come. However, a data center with faulty wiring can damage equipment, cause data losses, and pose other risks. Common errors include:

Wrongly assuming that your data center's electrical needs are static without factoring in power fluctuations

Failing to also take into account future maintenance needs that a data center's electrical system will require

A lack of set electrical installation and maintenance procedures to follow

Not employing the skills of a qualified professional electrician to ensure proper grounding, checking that electrical codes are met, and other tasks for which an electrician is required

Inadequate preparation for power outages and surges
 
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When is a toilet

 like a salt shaker?

 

          Part 2  Continued from July

 
When is a toilet like a salt shaker?
 
The basic answer to my wife's question, "Why don't you leave the toilet seat down?" was to say that I didn't see any reason to do anything in particular with the toilet seat.  My reason was that the toilet seat is essentially a tool that can be adjusted for the user's comfort, and that the individual user was responsible for it.  To make my point, I rolled out this dynamite (and incredibly logical) analogy:

A toilet seat has only three positions:  seat up, seat down, lid down.

A salt shaker has only three positions:  shake (with many small openings), pour (one large opening), and closed.

Note that the salt shaker I am describing is the cylindrical version made from paper that you buy at the market.  It has a plastic top which can be rotated to reveal the desired opening.  If you are having trouble visualizing this, a typical cardboard container of parmesan cheese has the same basic configuration.

These two items are IDENTICAL in the way they are used!  After making this point I explained in detail:

The salt shaker is kept in the kitchen cabinet.  Upon reaching into the cabinet to pick up the salt shaker, there is no way to be certain exactly which of the three possible positions it may be in.  When you pick it up, you LOOK AT IT, and what you immediately ask yourself, "Is the salt shaker in the proper condition for use?"  In other words, if you want to use it for cooking, is it in the "pour" state?  If you want to use it for adding a dash of salt to your food, is it in the "shake" state?  If it is closed, then it is not in condition for use at all and must be adjusted.  After you have adjusted the salt shaker, and used it for your chosen reason, you then put it back in the kitchen cabinet.  It need not be returned to the cabinet in any particular state, because you cannot predict who will be the next person to use it, or for what purpose it will be needed.  The next time someone uses it, they follow the identical process.

My argument for toilet seat use is the same.  The first thing you do is look at it to see if it is in the proper condition for use.  It could be in any of the three states, but only one of the three.  You adjust it for use and then leave.  There is no reason to return it to the state you found it in (or to any particular state), because you cannot predict who will be the next person to use it.

Brilliant, right?  My wife did not think so, and she was not persuaded.

Continued next newsletter

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Information Support Concepts, Inc.
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