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Virtualization & The Physical Infrastructure

Quoting Processor.com

At its root, virtualization is about the aggregation and control of resourcesregardless of where they are and what they do. Be they servers or applications or storage, in the end the virtualization of these resources allows data center managers to create a synergy with their computing power to make more of what they initially had.

Though the practice has long been an option for things such as hardware and software, few data centers have expanded the philosophy behind virtualization to the physical infrastructure. But being able to dynamically adjust all elements of the systems that control power and cooling at a single console could potentially be just as revolutionary as controlling multiple machines in a grid computing setup.

The capabilities of the modern data center aren’t quite up to the task yet, but they are getting there. Manufacturers are creating IP-addressable PDUs, PDUs that can be monitored by the outlet, and cooling units that can adjust automatically to changing room conditions. And some of the bigger manufacturers such as APC already provide environmental monitoring consoles that let users hook in all of their power and cooling equipment through software that allows them to understand all of the conditions of the room in order to evaluate what is going on and manually make decisions from that point.

“From a monitoring standpoint, you want to know everything that is going on in the room,” says Steve Wencis, director of professional services for APC. “Still, though, there are limits to what infrastructure can do. While remote monitoring is possible for many products on the market, manual intervention is often still required to make changes to settings or to reboot items.

But as manufacturers advance these technologies and data center managers become savvier about setting up their infrastructure, it may be only a matter of time before power and cooling go completely virtual.

Power

As mentioned before, most of today’s enterprise-class power-related units are already equipped to provide thorough remote monitoring capabilities. This is usually done by providing a network port into the items and letting the user attach an IP address to the equipment in question.

But not all power monitoring is created equally, says Greg Reynolds, engineer for Cyber Switching. He says that remote monitoring is fine, but if a data center manager still must physically switch the equipment on and off, it can make things difficultespecially for an organization that has many remote sites.

“What happened in the past is people would plug in their servers and all of their data center equipment into a power strip, and then they would find over the course of time they would have to reset equipment for one reason or another,” Reynolds says. “And they were having to send people out to remote sites basically to turn a switch off and turn it back on.”

Cyber Switching has power products that address this problem. Other similar products on the market include Pulizzi Engineering’s IPC36 series of power strips, which offer control through Ethernet with a browser, telnet, or SNMP (www.pulizzi.com). This model features event scheduling, email notifications, outlet grouping, and user-level outlet access.

“We put switching capability in the equipment so that now you can sit in front of your computer, and you can type in the IP address for one of these devices [and] turn an outlet off and turn an outlet back on from your computer,” says Reynolds of the Cyber Switching line.

In addition, the company also provides more in-depth monitoring beyond total power draw of its strips.

“We said ‘Gee, wouldn’t it be nice if we also knew how much current that you were drawing from a particular outlet,’” says Reynolds. “And this is what sets us apart from our competition; they monitor the total power of strips. We thought, ‘Yeah, total power is good, but let’s say you have 16 outlets in your plug strip, and you have 16 servers plugged in, and one of them goes out, and it just shuts itself down and stops drawing power. You can see from the total that your current has gone down from let’s say 16 amps to 15 amps, but you don’t know which one is off.”

With Cyber Switching, Reynolds says that operations staff can know exactly what to look for when going to repair the equipment. Their PDUs will tell them there is an error on a particular outlet so that when a technician goes in to make a repair, he or she can minimize the repair time.

Cooling

On the cooling side of things, Wencis says that APC has already released a product that mirrors virtualization in a way, APC’s InfraStruXure InRow RC (www.apcc.com). “We call it in-row cooling. Rather than having a traditional method of having your air-conditioning units circling the floor and pressurizing a raised floor, what we do is we actually put the air-conditioning unit right out in the row of the IT equipment,” he says. “The idea is to capture the heat right where it’s generated.”

The way that this InRow RC unit mirrors virtualization, he says, is that the unit has a certain capacity under nominal conditions. But as you raise the return air temperature of the unit, you actually raise the capacity of the unit.

“This is true for all air conditioning, but when you have the other method, when you have them scattered across the room, what happens is that hot air mixes with the cooler air as it goes back to the unit so you can’t gain that efficiency of raising the return air temperature to the unit,” he says. “So by locating it right at the rack, you are basically capturing that heat right where it’s generatedso the higher that load goes, the more heat it generates and the higher the return air temperature to the unit. And you get more capacity out of that unit. So it dynamically adjusts based on the load.”

On top of this, the unit has variable fans, so the speed of the fan that determines the airflow adjusts dynamically, as well.

Read the original, here.

 

Published Friday, October 20, 2006 6:52 AM by David Marshall
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