The Stack Archive Article

Why every Electrical Contractor should recognise that UPS is a huge business opportunity

Thu 30 Mar 2017

By Geoff Denham, Data centre Design and Build Consultant, Comtec Power

A vital component in infrastructure and fit-out projects, UPS/power protection is a specialist area that safeguards the essential 24/7 uptime of sensitive IT systems. This means that those general electrical contractors with the best working knowledge are better at spotting, maximising and converting UPS opportunities.

We’ve pulled together six key pointers to help electrical contractors profit from their UPS understanding based on our 20+ years’ experience building, designing and maintaining datacentre and server room infrastructures.

UPS is a huge business opportunity.

The global UPS market is growing at 7.7% a year and will be worth £4.54bn by 2022, according to the latest research by Global Market Insights. Even the smallest organisations need UPS protection because even the smallest organisations are now almost completely reliant on their IT systems to communicate, sell, market themselves and operate critical business processes. At the other end of the spectrum, the cost of unplanned downtime for larger organisations is startling. Conservative estimates put it at over £5,000 per minute.

TAKE AWAY: UPS is as strategically important to your customers as their IT.

There’s a ‘Power’ struggle between facilities and IT

When it comes to building a datacentre, whether a greenfield site or refurbishment, the facilities manager normally decides on how the racks of IT equipment are powered and cooled, where they are located etc.. What goes into the racks is all the IT manager need care about. This lack of collaboration can cause problems that delay the rollout of new IT services and create expensive and time-consuming adjustments to room layout. These outcomes – and the internal friction that goes with it – could have been avoided simply by involving IT decision makers in the process at a much earlier stage.

A typical example is a room designed to handle an overall power rating which has been meticulously fitted out in accordance with the specification. An experienced facilities manager might take a decision on how much power to allocate to a rack based on their long and hard won experience. But when the IT manager comes to populate the rack, they might want to install a number of power hungry blade servers. This will have implications for the power density in the rack. It will also have implications for the necessary cooling. The IT manager realises that more power supplies are needed, and more UPS support.

TAKE AWAY: Customers will thank you for brokering the IT/facilities relationship when it comes to UPS

PUE is a red hot issue

The desire to make IT greener shows no sign of abating as focus continues to fall on equipments rooms and datacentres being one of the biggest drains on power in a business. Hence finding energy savings is a holy grail for organisations large and small, not just to satisfy corporate social responsibility or environmental sustainability goals but also to meet the more obvious aspiration of unlocking potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds a year to spend on other things. The often-quoted metric is PUE – Power Usage Effectiveness – first coined by the Green Grid 10 years ago. There is no ‘one-size fits all’ for power protection, which is why approaches like right-sizing UPS is an essential part of minimising PUE.

TAKE AWAY: PUE reduction is a very popular aspiration, but customer expectations must be realistic and will be unique in every case.

Post-build success depends on automated monitoring

You’ll hear IT people talk about the so-called software-defined datacentre. Rest assured, it still needs cables to interconnect, floors to stand on and electricity to power – but the term expresses just how much more important software has become compared to hardware. Take DCIM – Datacentre Infrastructure Management – which is software that undertakes constant monitoring of physical infrastructure such as power, cooling, access control etc. This is important because customers care what will happen to their datacentre investments after the paint is dry on a new fit out or refurb and the contractors have all packed up and gone home. This keeps abreast of the environment, highlighting improvement opportunities and even ‘self-healing’ to a certain extent. It is an important enabler of advanced PUE, as evidenced in this recent case study with Cardiff University.

TAKE AWAY: DCIM is a long term insurance policy for the success of a datacentre/comms room fitout.

Power and cooling are never far apart

This might sound a bit like teaching granny to suck eggs, but it really can’t be overstated how vital it is to plan power and cooling requirements in tandem. Naturally this includes the provision of UPS to the appropriate level, and optimum deployment configuration. The difficulty and importance of getting this right increases in instances where data/IT growth can be projected and where PUE and energy efficiency in general are major business objectives. In the most challenging circumstances, planning for increased UPS scaling will have to deal with space constraints and other environmental obstacles.

TAKE AWAY: The stability and overall lifetime of a datacentre can be compromised if UPS, power and cooling isn’t planned correctly.

At the end of the day, UPS is all about uptime. But knowing just some of the nuances could make you more valuable to your customers.

At Comtec, we routinely work alongside electrical and M&E contractors to advise on and deliver UPS and power protection. From their perspective, our intervention regularly results in happy end-customers and attractive margins.

Click here to find out more about our top accreditations with best-in-class UPS brands including APC, Schneider Electric, Eaton and Riello and how working with us keeps you ahead of the latest technologies, compliance standards and best practices in UPS and power protection.

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