Tools For Keeping Things Cool

data center virtualization

To manage data center assets -- both physical and virtual -- a new crop of tools has sprouted and matured. The CRN Test Center has looked at several over the past few months, and a few have stood out. One such tool is Infrastruxure Central, from APC by Schneider Electric. It’s a floor-to-ceiling asset management system that, once populated, greatly simplifies the planning of power distribution and hot- and cold-aisle isolation, monitors and reports power consumption and can send alerts when levels reach critical thresholds.

APC’s centralized planning and management tool is one that energy-conscious data center admins will want to consider. For the energy-conscious customer, a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) report displays information about current and past power usage, giving administrators an at-a-glance view of the amount of power being used by computing assets, infrastructure assets and the organization as a whole. This dashboard, along with much other critical Infrastruxure data, can be accessed through a browser from any machine with connectivity to the LAN that manages the assets.

Also impressive was the Intelligent Power Software Suite included with Eaton’s 5130 RT 1000, a 1000VA 2U rack-mountable UPS. Available in models up to 3000VA, the 5130 can be managed directly using any browser. Most impressive about Eaton’s Intelligent Power Software Suite was the tightness and depth of its integration with VMware. Not only can the software perform an orderly shutdown of ESX servers when faced with an impending power failure (as can most others), it’s also smart enough to first suspend any VMware instances running there.

Even better, Eaton’s utility can invoke VMware’s vMotion feature, and can move virtual machines running on a failing server to one that’s healthy. We also liked Eaton’s VMware plug-in, which gives administrators the ability to observe and manage power devices right through the vCenter Server console. Of course, the software also sends alerts and notifications of power events at user-specified levels. These settings also can be modified with the browser.

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Tripp Lite’s Hot Spot Cooler

With all this heat-generating hardware around, even the most well-planned data center can have its cooling systems overwhelmed, particularly during summer months. Designed for such occasions of supplemental cooling is Tripp Lite’s SRCOOL 12K, a spot-cooling device that the Test Center thought was worthy of a closer look. As its name suggests, it provides 12,000 BTUs of cooling and is designed for data centers, server rooms, wiring closets and other various off-hour or emergency cooling applications.

The free-standing unit runs on household current and requires no special connectors or converters. It has a 20-x-13-inch footprint and four casters allow it to swoop in, put out “the fire” and store away again without back strain. It’s self-contained; there’s no need for special drainage lines and no pans to empty. Instead, condensation collects in a container (that’s not user-accessible), where it evaporates into the exhaust stream. A plug allows for drainage, if desired.

Cool air can be directed at hot spots using the included louvers or directly applied to an equipment rack by replacing the louvers with the included duct connectors and flexible duct pipe. In addition, longer flex pipe is included for the exhaust along with a sliding exhaust bracket that adjusts to openings between 26.5 inches and 49.2 inches and can be used for windows or drop ceilings. Air filters occupy the left side of the unit and slide out for cleaning.

The SRCOOL 12K runs more quietly than some air conditioners we’ve heard. In cooling mode, the unit’s peak power consumption was 934 watts. The control panel is a no-brainer, and an automatic timer can cool down areas in advance. The SRCOOL is not a managed device and is not designed to become a permanent part of your data center.

Virtual Opportunities

The good news for resellers targeting small and large companies alike is the enormous opportunities that exist to take advantage of the current surge of data center consolidation and virtualization. More than hardware, this wave presents numerous means of gaining repeat revenue through installation and maintenance as well as backup, replication, and disaster planning and recovery.

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