Rolling in new backup power

March 16, 2010

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Steel Technologies, Louisville, Ky., processes flat-rolled steel for a variety of industries including automotive, appliance, and construction. The company’s data center covers 24 facilities in three different countries and all router, switch, cabling, wireless, and power requirements are controlled by Dave Stephenson, network operations manager for Steel Technologies.

As part of the company’s improvement effort, the IT department was worked on a huge conversion from older mainframes to thin, fast, and power-hungry blade servers. The data center is set up in a hub and spoke configuration, managing more than 110 servers. Steel Technologies was converting to an all-inclusive software platform that would cover everything from human resources to manufacturing. The new blade servers were configured to handle the task, which would save space, but the new power and cooling requirements were overextending the data center’s maximum capacity.

“As we were adding new blade servers, we were absorbing too much power and producing far too much heat” said Stephenson.

Steel Technologies needed to plan for future growth of new facilities. The existing power backup system wasn’t scalable and needed to be replaced. The batteries on the existing UPS were at their limit, running at diminished capacity due to their age. As Stephenson and the Steel Technologies team were reviewing vendors for backup power, the data center was hit by a large wind storm. The remains of a hurricane blew through and knocked out the power. The surrounding area lost power and the generator was at capacity. Stephenson and the rest of his team realized that there was room in the data center for a few more racks, but they asked the question “Why can’t we get a UPS that just fits in a rack as well?”

Steel Technologies answered the question by purchasing the HP Parallel 3-Phase UPS (UPS RP36000/3). The pre-racked UPS provides 36 kW of power or 24 kW with N + 1 redundancy. Housed in a single HP 10000 Series G2 42U rack, the unit can be expanded to 60 kW with N+1 redundancy by installing up to three additional RP12000/3 UPS modules. The unit has paralleling technology, which includes a full UPS, including all electronics, batteries, and bypass modules. The paralleling technology allows multiple RP12000/3 UPS modules to attach together to form a larger capacity UPS. The HP UPS unit has advanced digital signal processing, wireless-paralleling, and on-line, on-demand hybrid technology. The technology combines the efficiency of a line interactive UPS, with the stability of a double conversion on-line UPS, while operating at a normal efficiency of 97%. One of the key advantages of the HP parallel UPS is its flat working efficiency curve allowing efficiency to remain close to 97% at below 50% loading.

The installation required an upgrade of the existing electrical infrastructure in the data center. A new 208-V, three-phase input was installed and future UPS power upgrades will only require the installation of another 6U chassis in the rack and racking in the power and battery modules. After the addition of a 12 kW module added to the base 36 kW system, Steel Technologies has a 48 kW of operating power with the plan to upgrade to 60 kW in the future.

In the data center’s legacy UPS, the data center was losing a switch or router once every few months. “One can’t be in the data center 24/7, and when switches mysteriously went down, we couldn’t figure out the cause. Sometimes we would lose a bank of ports and go from 24- to 12-port switching. At least once a quarter, we’d completely lose the use of a piece of equipment” Stephenson said.

In every data center, cooling loads and maintaining a stable, low temperature are key factors in data center management. After installation, the average temperature went from 68 to 66 F without adding capacity to the air conditioning system. By not having to install a new HVAC system, Steel Technologies saved an additional $35,000 in project costs.

Monitoring and service are also part of the data center team’s daily management tasks. With the optional power management module, Steel Technologies has remote monitoring of the HP RP36000/3 UPS with full incident reporting, which adds to the simple network management protocol (SNMP) monitoring on the blade servers. The power management module can send e-mail notification messages, send SNMP traps, can monitor and manage UPSs, as well as independent UPS load segments, to provide separate power control of connected equipment.

Stephenson calculates that his out-of-the-gate savings include a 2-F reduction in the overall data center temperature, a budget surplus of $35,000 by eliminating the purchase of a new HVAC system, and a 30% savings in data center space by eliminating the need for a separate space that housed a wall of batteries.

At A Glance


• Unity power factor means VA out equals wattage output

• 97% efficiency, even at a low 40% output load

• UPS paralleling provides redundancy and expansion

• Up to 60,000 VA/60,000 W in a single 42U rack


• The HP UPS Management Module is included for remote management and alerts

• Hot swappable electronics and batteries

• Backed by a limited three-year warranty and HP’s pre-failure warranty on the batteries


• Up to four 3U-Extended-Runtime Modules can be attached to the UPS for maximum runtime in the event of a power failure

• Dual L15-30 output modules can be connected to each UPS module for a total of 12 L15-30 connections


• UPS paralleling allows up to six UPS modules work together to increase load capacity and N + 1 fault tolerance

• In the event of a failure the load shifts to remaining modules providing 100% UPS protection

>> Information provided by HP