“The most cost-effective way of reducing data centre energy costs and improving security and resilience is to install an effective control and monitoring system.”

This was the key message delivered by Steven Nicholls, RDM’s sales manager, during a presentation at the recent Data Centre Cooling Question Time event, held in London.

The event, organised by RAC magazine and held at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), was attended by data centre designers, operators, and endusers, keen to hear about the latest developments for improving the efficiency and resilience of their facilities.

The audience included data centre managers from large organisations such as the BBC and major oil companies, as well as representatives from specialists operating server farms globally.

The conference heard that the current rapid growth in data centres was forecast to continue, driven by the expansion in the online economy, social networks, and entertainment. With data centres consuming an estimated 2% of global energy supplies, the big challenge facing operators was to cut power usage in order to reduce running costs and carbon emissions, and improve security and resilience of mission-critical services.

“The data centre sector is very advanced in terms of its core technology. However, there are huge opportunities for improving the way data centre facilities themselves are controlled, monitored and managed,” said Nicholls. “In many facilities, essential support systems for cooling, ventilating and lighting operate with only local control on individual items of plant. This is extremely inefficient from an energy and maintenance point of view, and makes control and monitoring haphazard and difficult, at best. The key is to bring all this critical equipment under the control of a central system, to give a real-time overview of the entire facility.”

He added, “This is exactly what RDM’s open protocol control and monitoring solutions deliver. And because they are based on an open platform, it enables equipment from several manufacturers to be linked up into a single network. This gives tremendous flexibility and overcomes the problem of traditional proprietary systems locking users into expensive approaches.”

He told the conference how RDM systems had been proven in the food retail sector, where they had helped high street companies save millions of pounds in energy and maintenance costs year-on-year.

Using RDM systems, he said, data centre managers could take control of their facilities in a way not possible before, giving total transparency at the level of both individual items of plant and the facility as a whole.

At the heart of the RDM system was the data manager, he said, which acted as the central hub of a facility-wide control and monitoring system, enabling all aspects of the operation of a data centre to be viewed from a pc, smart phone or tablet — from anywhere with an internet connection.

This gave data centre operators the ability to view and manage their facilities globally from a single interface, and monitor and control their systems in real time. This could also save on manpower, as it overcame the requirement to have staff on-site 24/7, which as the conference heard was an important trend in some facilities.

A further important benefit was that RDM controls provided the ability to detect problems before they became a costly issue. Warning signs of gradual equipment failure, such as progressive compressor or fan faults on air conditioning, could be spotted before failure resulted in breakdown.

This foresight on potential problems was extremely useful and enabled managers to plan for preventive maintenance rather than more expensive reactive maintenance. In this way, a well-designed control and monitoring system gave operators the ability to manage problems before they resulted in a crisis.

Concluding, Nicholls told the conference, “Data centres are vital infrastructure that support the economy and, indeed, our entire way of life. It is essential that operators have the ability to manage them effectively, and improve their efficiency and resilience. Intelligent controls such as RDM systems make this possible, and open up exciting new opportunities for optimising and managing data centre operation now and in the future.”