How serious and ready are Indian
enterprises about power conditioning for its IT infrastructure?
And how do they overcome difficulties of poor supply
in certain cities? A look at how these issues can be
resolved. by Soutiman Das Gupta
The word 'outage' is likely
to scare a CTO more than the man-eating shark did in
the film Jaws. And why not? An outage in your IT infrastructure
will result in loss of productivity, management dissatisfaction,
loss of revenue, loss of transactions, and may lead
to customer dissatisfaction.
may be the result of various factors: the high-tech
ones like network failures or hardware/ software crashes,
or the natural ones like earthquakes, floods, and fires.
But according to
the "Cost of Downtime" survey conducted by Contingency
Planning Research Inc., power-related problems were
the most frequent reason for outage in an enterprise.
The survey also
showed that, power outages took place 25 percent of
the time, and power surges/spikes three percent of the
time. Together (28 percent), they comprised the most
common outages, and were followed by storms, floods,
hardware errors, and fire. Network outages occurred
only two percent of the time.
This shows that
while CIOs/CTOs have been busy creating redundant network
architectures with no single point of failure, the aspect
of power supply and solutions took a 'bit of a back
is a well-defined strategy to ensure that an enterprise
has continuous power availability, which is clean, steady,
and free of irregularities. It also encompasses power
redundancy in terms of backup and alternate supply.
conditioning is a subset of Business Continuity Management
(BCM). BCM's goal is to provide 100 percent business
uptime, of which power conditioning is an important
aspect. This is because electricity is the basic necessity
to run the hardware and the applications, which enable
jointly conducted by MAIT, Emerson Network Power (ENP)
India, and Feedback Consulting in 325 Indian enterprises
showed that over 60 percent firms experienced power
disruption more than once a month. And India Inc. could
be losing over Rs 20,000 crore annually, in direct losses,
due to poor power quality and operating environment
related downtime. The final bill for India Inc. would
be much higher if the indirect losses are taken into
An UPS (Uninterrupted
Power Supply) is the core component of a power conditioning
strategy. It has features like the inverter, voltage
stabilizer, and EMI/RFI filters. It also has a number
of built-in intelligent features, which take care of
most of the typical power-related problems (See box:
What can go wrong with power?). UPSs can also be managed
remotely through browsers. And this provides a lot of
But one has to
look beyond a UPS in order to deploy a total power conditioning
strategy. An enterprise also needs to plan redundancy
and backup at various levels of operation. Redundancy
should also be built into each zone and into all pieces
of equipment. Ground faults and wrong wiring issues
have to be dealt with. And the success of the solution
has to be reviewed through audits and checks.
UPSs do not usually take care of all the power-related
problems. For example, a UPS must have an isolation
transformer (to protect from EMI/RFI noise) in its output
circuit to qualify as a power conditioner.
An ideal power conditioning
An ideal strategy
is one that encompasses all power-related problems.
In large enterprises, power conditioning is usually
the shared responsibility of the Operations Manager
and the IT Head. In smaller enterprises, the IT Head
should be the one to swing into action.
It is difficult
to suggest an ideal strategy since different companies
from different verticals have different business and
operational needs. But one may use a broad framework.
1. At the point/gateway
where the power enters your enterprise from the electric
supply, there needs to be an automatic transfer switch.
This is because most companies will have a backup diesel
generator set. The transfer switch swaps between the
two feeds. You can install a manual transfer switch,
but it needs a person to be deployed at the site around
the clock. An automatic transfer switch is useful especially
in the case of remote locations.
2. Power from the
transfer switch flows into a surge suppresser. This
controls any high power fluctuations, which are likely
to damage equipment. It has somewhat the same functions
as that of a domestic PC spike buster, but on a larger
3. AC power now
passes through an UPS which has a battery backup and
automatically switches over to the alternative supply
in case of outages. The power is now distributed to
various departments and sections of an enterprise through
a power distribution cabinet. Some telecom switches
and equipment require DC supply. In this case the company
needs to set up DC power systems and interfaces.
4. Cables must
be robust and the conduits and pipes must be laid according
to safety principles. The embedded AC/DC power supply
is also critical. This is the power supply grid present
inside servers, switches, and other devices. Critical
hardware should have dual power grids, so that one acts
5. The customer
also has to evaluate and identify the critical areas
for which uptime needs to be enhanced. There may be
possibility of distribution faults or some fault in
the facility. An enterprise can deploy dual power supplies,
dual distribution equipment, and static switches at
the load end.
6. The capability
to monitor operations from remote locations has emerged
as an important feature for any solution. So, all these
solutions should allow browser-based monitoring. Information
of impending failures like a weak battery bank and alarm
conditions which need manual intervention, can be retrieved
from anywhere in the world. Some
management software can also send SMS and e-mail messages
as alerts. The remote monitoring and message delivery
functions should be closely integrated with the customer's
7. As a part of
a complete power solution offering, all the equipment
has to be wrapped around by services. Servicing starts
right from pre-sales and carries on as a life-long commitment
made by the power vendor to its customers.
Manoj John, Industry
Manager, Industrial Technologies Practice, Frost &
Sullivan (India) feels that the extent of damage to
an organization in case of a power outage differs from
one company to the other. Downtime cost can be calculated
using a formula based on a number of common cost factors
which reflect business realities.
Some common cost
- User productivity
- Revenue or transaction impact
- IT productivity
- Lost future revenue
- Market impact
- Fees/penalties/other charges
In functions like
ATM (Automated Teller Machine) transactions, mobile
telecom, rail reservations, and air reservations, downtime
has direct impact on revenue and goodwill. The cost
can be calculated by multiplying transaction volume
per minute with the number of minutes lost in downtime.
This revenue is lost forever.
The MAIT and ENP
survey reported that over 50 percent of the respondents
mentioned impact on business processes, PCs, and servers
as the most severe manifestation of downtime. In today's
networked environment, any break in business continuity
not only results in monetary loss, but also erodes customer
confidence and adversely impacts the image of the organization.
Soutiman Das Gupta
can be reached at email@example.com
MAIT, Emerson Network Power (India), and Feedback
Consulting jointly conducted a study to quantify
the cost of downtime to the Indian economy. The
study was carried out during Aug-Sep 2002, covering
325 Indian firms, over eight locations.
According to the study, India Inc. could be
losing over Rs. 20,000 crore annually, in direct
losses, due to poor power quality and operating
environment related downtime.
Some highlights of the survey:
- Over 60 percent firms experience power disruption
more than once a month.
- Over 50 percent of the respondents mention
impact on business processes, PCs & servers
as the most severe manifestation of downtime.
- Downtime is a crisis situation: While immediate
loss of production, idle capacity and time to
start the operations again is apparent, it is
failing customer expectations and being considered
an unreliable supplier that has long-term repercussions.
- One in ten firms have a latent apprehension
that poor quality power and air-conditioning
could be 'eating away at their vital equipment
reducing their effective life.
- Downtime due to power and air-conditioning
failures considered inevitable: Over 79 percent
of the respondents attribute this to unscheduled
power cuts and poor power quality.
- UPS considered most critical as the foundation
to developing a network uptime solutions: Over
83 percent of the respondents rated the UPS
as extremely critical to network uptime.
- Over 75 percent of the respondents have invested
in back up power quality products, which has
helped stem some of the potential business losses.
- Ensuring continuous customer service is considered
the foremost reason for maintaining uptime by
80 percent of the firms: Companies agree investment
in this area is critical and prefer branded
Power solutions in enterprises can have the
Centralized power architecture: In this, an
enterprise has centralized power solution architecture.
It's typically found in small enterprises where
one set or architecture and equipment is deployed
at the main location. Conditioned power is distributed
to various operational departments.
- Advantages: Not very expensive to procure
and deploy. Easy to maintain.
- Disadvantage: Not suitable for large enterprises.
Centralized Zonal architecture: An enterprise's
infrastructure is divided into divisions/departments
like IT, Production, and Packaging. Each has its
own power conditioning solution. And each department
identifies zones like mission critical and non-mission
critical. Each zone is equipped with separate
- Advantages: Increases reliability and availability
since the solutions in different zones are independent
of one another. One zone can function even if
another breaks down. Difference in power needs
of various types of hardware in different zones
can be addressed. In a centralized architecture,
it's difficult to differentiate power needs
since there is only one equipment setup. Easy
- Disadvantages: Costly. Requires dedicated
Distributed architecture: Separate UPSs for
each workstation and server are deployed throughout
- Advantage: Good for a small company due to
low initial cost.
- Disadvantages: Costly as the number of hardware
increases. Low reliability. Not suitable for
large enterprises. Low-end UPSs do not have
many advanced features like filters, and rectifiers.
To understand how you can calculate the power
requirement in your enterprise, let's see how
C. Kajwadkar, Vice President, NSE.IT Limited has
done the same for the National Stock Exchange
"Power requirements for the IT infrastructure
are assessed based on advance planning during
the inception stages of building the IT infrastructure.
This includes power requirement of all servers,
PCs, and network equipment. And the requirements
are reviewed at least once a year for necessary
action," says Kajwadkar.
- An estimate-model is drawn for the load,
based on actual consumption as per equipment
- A factor of safety for the recommendations
and providing for future demands including the
required backup time is added.
- Based on these, broad specifications of the
UPS requirements are drawn.
- Backup capacity is calculated based upon
the capacity of the batteries.
- Extra capacity of at least 40 percent is
normally provided for future expansion.
- To ensure availability of power under an
acute outage spanning more than the battery
back-up time, redundant DG sets of desired capacity
are put in place.
Emergency always-on power
Organizations that provide critical services like
hospitals and telecoms can subscribe to an always-on
power supply connection from the electric company.
These power lines ensure availability of power
on a continuous basis.
However, this supply may carry bad power, especially
if the regular supply to other grids are down.
An organization must deploy facilities for backup
and deploy a UPS even though it has subscribed
to the emergency line.