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Design Best Practices for Data Centers


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New design tools to the rescue

When an electrical power system is designed, it is routinely created by a power systems engineer using any of a variety of commercial, off-the-shelf CAD software (like Autocad) to create a design. High-end CAD modeling tools are significantly enhanced, making it easier to achieve the optimal integrity and safety of complex electrical infrastructure. As examples, they can simulate and help to resolve issues like arc flash, power flow, power quality, protective device coordination, and dozens of other power considerations iteratively enabling the engineer to produce a model that is "perfect on paper."

Historically, the CAD model was printed out as an electrical, one-line diagram and thrown over the wall to a construction firm that, at the completion of the project, archived the drawings in printed and electronic form. But despite the wealth of information and professional expertise encoded in these models, they historically served no future purpose -- unless, of course, operational problems occurred that sent everyone back to the drawing board to see where the design model was flawed.

A new class of high-end analytical software is now available that previously was the domain of systems designers for nuclear power plants, naval war ships and other mission critical systems. Now, power analytics, a robust set of software tools that designs the electrical scheme, and can be redeployed in "live" mode to perform predictive analysis and 'what if' scenarios in order to prevent any surprises and costly downtime once the facility is operational.

Unlike conventional design/CAD packages, a power analytics' CAD model remains in electronic form, and is -- rather than archived -- retained in online mode meaning that all of the components and their specifications go live to provide a benchmark for how the system should be performing in its ideal state and what variations may exist between the ideal and actual states. Electrical engineers can now quickly create a robust electrical design base -- a detailed design and knowledge base of the all the components, processes, and performance specifications of the entire electrical distribution system.

The first of these power analytics tools, Paladin Design Base and Paladin Live from EDSA, are now in use in extremely demanding customer sites -- such as financial data centers, air traffic control, and power distribution networks -- to simulate and analyze systems from a variety of static or dynamic perspectives. They include the ability to model and embed detailed control logic of intelligent electronic devices that control power flow throughout the system.

These tools also provide a way to thoroughly analyze and conduct "what if" testing prior to the construction phase. This is a critical step in the success of the overall design and a crucial tool in optimizing Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) and Data Center infrastructure Efficiency (DCiE.) These widely accepted benchmarking standards -- put forth by the Green Grid -- can show just how energy efficient a data center is and monitor the impact of the efficiency efforts.

Once the facility is up and running, power analytics dives deeper by acting as a collision avoidance system - one that predicts and prevents electrical power problems from occurring to begin with, potentially saving the organization thousands of dollars per second in lost financial transactions, communications, customers and good will. Planning an efficient power infrastructure - and possessing the capability to continually monitor the system -- will help ensure that precious dollars are not lost to inefficiency.

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