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The Changing Face of Infrastructure Monitoring
The Changing Face of Infrastructure Monitoring
The Changing Face of Infrastructure Monitoring
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By Drew Robb
May 31, 2007
Donald Trump is rumored to be heavily involved in it. Cisco Systems is
all over it via its Cisco Connected Real Estate (CCRE) initiative.
Numerous power, cooling and building-automation systems (BAS) vendors
are jumping on the bandwagon.
What is it?
It's the convergence of IP networks and BAS. Convergence that is
enabling IT managers to keep track of everything in one building via a
"We are seeing an emerging market of security systems, HVAC and power
systems managed via IP," said Andreas Antonopoulos, an analyst at New
York City based Nemertes Research. "Long term, we will see other forms
of convergence, such as IP managing a whole range of BAS."
BAS includes lighting, elevators, cooling and electrical elements. It
can also encompass physical security systems, TV and fire safety =E2=80=94 all
united under IP as the overarching control and monitoring system.
Antonopoulos lists the benefits as power savings, coordination of
physical and logical assets, and improved security.
While such systems are starting to appear, it may be years before they
are a standard part of provisioning a new data center. The early stages
of convergence are here, however, and range from simple extensions of
existing IT capabilities to full-fledged facility systems that tie IT
tightly into a building's infrastructure.
Netuitive, for example, sells a business service management (BSM)
solution that analyzes the data center in real time. It self-learns the
system and transmits advanced warnings of heating and power issues.
Netuitive Service Analyzer correlates environmental metrics, such as
temperature and power consumption, alongside server performance metrics.
"Because server overheating creates IT nightmares, knowing ahead of time
that the power consumption or temperature is going up allows the IT
manager to contact the building manager to proactively prevent
problems," said Jean-Francois Huard, CTO and vice president of research
and development at Netuitive.
Netuitive's technology is based on statistical regression and
correlation analysis. For example, a data center with multiple air
conditioning (AC) units might have issues with one AC control board that
failed to detect a rise in room temperature and therefore didn't send
any alarms. This system would detect the anomaly early enough so an
admin could have the AC control board repaired and address the
overheating issue before any servers shut down. This technology also
learns server patterns, so intensive periods of processor usage that
send temperatures higher don't also sound the alarm for no reason.
According to Huard, Netuity requires sensors be connected to the
network. These can be found in the smart UPS and APC-MGE's NetBotz
sensor offerings or Liebert's cooling systems.
Eaton offers a different way of monitoring. In addition to power
equipment, Eaton's Foreseer Enterprise Management System manages
environmental and life/safety devices from any site carrying a Foreseer
server. It can interface with gear from most power and environmental
equipment manufacturers, as well as fire, security, fuel, UPS, air
handlers, HVAC, battery monitoring and temperature/humidity subsystems.
Thus, IT managers can simultaneously track servers and building systems.
APC, meanwhile, has been steadily upgrading its InfraStruXure platform
to encompass an even greater zone. InfraStruXure Central 4.0 covers data
center design, monitoring and management, and it encompasses power,
cooling, floor space and cabling. Its approach is to lower support costs
and prevent downtime through early detection.
"With 1 to 2 percent of total U.S. power consumption now occurring in
data centers, good data center design is vital =E2=80=94 but alone it is not
enough," said Soeren Jensen, general manager of enterprise management
products at APC-MGE. "It takes the right combination of design,
operational and management factors to run things properly."
InfraStruXure Central has three components to take care of each facet.
Thus, it can be used to design a data center from the ground up (or
reconfigure it), for day-to-day operations and in overall management. It
keeps an eye on UPS, power switches, PDUs, batteries, cooling,
environmental monitors, airflow and server racks. It can also be tied
into some BAS systems and enterprise management platforms.
IP in Charge
Although many of the systems mentioned above can access data from
building systems, most are limited in what they can do. Ultimately,
however, that will change. The overall trend is for IP to be the
backbone for all building systems. Instead of having dozens of different
cabling systems, only a few will be needed, and IP will manage just
"Every major sub-system manufacture has something to say about IP," said
Tom Shircliff, co-founder of Intelligent Buildings in Charlotte, N.C.
Intelligent Buildings is a pioneer in real-estate technology, design and
management. "Larger companies like Trane, Siemens, TAC and Johnson
Controls promote building technology platforms that look like Ethernet
diagrams with their BAS applications hanging off the edge."
While this is a good sign, Shircliff cautioned that many of these
established players in the facilities market continue to protect their
proprietary protocols. As a result, products often labor to be truly
interoperable with "foreign" controllers, other building applications
and other technologies. He advocates platforms that accommodate multiple
protocols and applications. Shircliff's advice to anyone planning a new
"Convergence comes at many different levels and you should take what you
can get in today's environment, and look to the most progressive vendors
to push your legacy systems and providers," said Shircliff. "Basic
interoperability is already attainable with mechanical controls, access
controls/security and lighting controls."
Case in point: Intelligent Buildings was a primary vendor in a site
known as Ballantyne Village in Charlotte, N.C. It executed its Fourth
Utility concept alongside other providers, including Liebert, Panduit
and Cisco. Fourth Utility is all about harnessing IP as a readily
available utility =E2=80=94 just like electricity, water and gas.
"Most of the dozen applications that are converged and operating on the
Fourth Utility infrastructure at Ballantyne Village were not planned
from the beginning but were groomed onto the infrastructure along the
way," said Shircliff. "Some are converged physically via conduit, cable
tray and fiber optics, and others are electronically converged by being
switched through the Cisco infrastructure."
This includes television, ambient music, digital signage on 35 plasma
screens, energy sub-metering, WiFi, VoIP, LED property lighting, point
of sales and even lavatories that tell the maintenance staff to bring
more toilet paper or paper towels.
Another example is the 4 million square-foot North Carolina Research
Campus (NCRC), which is being built over the next few years at a cost of
$1.5 billion. Anyone looking to see the data center of the future would
do well to investigate this property. It is being constructed from the
ground up using Intelligent Buildings' Fourth Utility infrastructure.
"Building system convergence is being driven by the dominance of IP and
the economics," said Jim Sinopoli, principal of Sinopoli and Associates,
an engineering and consulting firm based in Spicewood, Texas. "As well
as saving money on the construction of the building, the benefits are
ease of management and streamlining of the skill sets required to manage
In the drawback side of the ledger, however, he notes that legacy
methods of designing and constructing a building are hard to combat.
Traditionally, each system is designed and installed separately.
Therefore, it can be difficult to get architects, engineers and
contractors to agree to look at doing things in a different way.
But like everything else, that will change with time. Shircliff thinks
it might take another five to seven years for complete convergence to
take place. Meanwhile, early adopters in the United States, like
Ballantyne Village and NCRC, represent some of the relatively few North
American examples, compared to a multitude of such state-of-the-art
campuses using this technology in Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
"From the perspective of the data center, the Fourth Utility is all
about reducing capital expenditures and operating expenditures," said
Terry King, business development manager at Liebert. "For now, however,
it is mostly hype and discussion in the U.S.A. and not a lot of action.
But that is going to change in the near future."
Copyright 2007 Jupitermedia Corporation - All Rights Reserved.
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