Why Smartdc's UPS is never on standby

Always on

Lately we’ve seen the issue of power cuts due to UPS disruptions pop up in the news on a regular basis. In this article, Managing Director Richard Boogaard explains the way UPS clusters are set up in our data centers and Smartdc’s approach to minimize disruptions.

Smartdc Rotterdam has two power houses, each with their own redundant UPS cluster. This setup ensures that the data center will never be without power. UPS is short for Uninterrupted Power Supply. A UPS has several batteries providing the data center with a constant supply of clean and pure AC power. We need this to prevent any equipment malfunctions. Aside from that, the UPS will provide power when the power grid is down.

Minimal chance of a power outage

What’s more, the UPS clusters can provide the data center with around 15 minutes of power to bridge the time between the instant the power grid goes down and the moment the generators kick in. Since the generators are always warmed up, it only takes them 15 seconds to take over the data center power supply. Smartdc is the only data center connected to the industrial 23kV power grid. This grid was installed for the Port of Rotterdam and has more documented uptime than the ‘regular’ 10kV grid for homes and businesses. As a result, the chances of a power outage are minimal.

UPS on standby

A UPS cluster can be set up in various ways. Many UPSs have a ‘green’ or standby mode, which greatly improve the power-efficiency of a data center. Savings from using this mode can run into the tens of thousands of euros a year. If a UPS has been configured for standby, power from the grid is delivered directly into the data center. If the power grid goes down, it will take a brief moment to switch over before the UPS becomes active. The main disadvantage of this switch time is that servers will see it as a disruption and go down. This may cause databases to freeze and could require repairs to bring the company back online. Since this is unacceptable to Smartdc’s clients, Smartdc has chosen to use the ‘always on’ mode for its UPS systems. Although less efficient, this mode poses no risk at all to our clients.

Smartdc: Always on

Another advantage of the ‘always on’ mode is that the batteries are continually being used. That way, any malfunctioning batteries will be identified straight away so they can be replaced in a timely manner. Because of the ‘always on’ UPS mode, power from the grid always goes through the UPS first and is rectified there before travelling to the suites. This is a key secondary task of the UPSs, aside from their role as backstops in case of a power outage.

Maintenance

The batteries in our UPS clusters are subject to periodic checks, conducted first by the software contained in the UPS itself. Moreover, Smartdc engineers regularly inspect the batteries using a heat camera: damaged or worn-out batteries will emit more heat and will be replaced as a precaution. Finally, Schneider Electric, our UPS supplier, conducts periodic maintenance of the systems. Since our UPS clusters are connected in parallel in several strings, we always have autonomy while replacing batteries: no downtime can occur. Our UPS systems are equipped with an extensive built-in control and reporting system. The software in the UPS ensures that the batteries are regularly used to (almost) full capacity, allowing us to quickly identify any wear-and-tear or other issues.

Want to find out more?

Take a tour of one of our data centers and see our UPS systems for yourself. We’ll be happy to answer all your questions!

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