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Issue of February 2004 
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Power Strategies for an Automated Business

Power, the driving force behind enterprise infrastructure is a neglected factor in many organizations. It is often relegated to the back of the mind till that dreaded power outage happens. In a country like India where power problems are the order of the day, the Indian corporate has to pay more attention to the electrical power coming into the enterprise.

With a view to highlighting this critical issue, Network Magazine conducted a roundtable on "Power Strategies for an Automated Business", to discuss the various aspects of power in enterprises. The roundtable witnessed some of the best technology users in the Indian enterprise debate issues and solutions to these aspects.

Held under the aegis of Technology Senate 2003, the roundtable highlighted many of the problems faced by Indian enterprises in terms of power. Some of the main issues discussed at the roundtable were about planning of power systems, maintenance and user education issues. We present an exclusive look at some of the issues and solutions discussed.

M N Jayasankar, Deputy Manager - IT, Power Grid Corporation of India said:

The main issues to consider when implementing power conditioning are the consequences of power failure and costs incurred due to the failure. If the cost of failure will cost the enterprise more, it is best to invest in a good power conditioning setup.

In many cases the power supply tends to be so erratic that UPSs do not get the time to charge fully between mains power failures, leading to system collapses. So it is crucial to consider the frequency and duration of power failures when performing capacity planning.

It is always better to deploy cable ducts rather than cables for the power infrastructure despite the incremental cost differences. This provides flexibility in two ways. One is that due to the closed nature of cable ducts, there are lesser chances of rodents destroying power cables. The second is that in case of cable failures, replacement of cables becomes easier.

Web-enabled power management systems can offer many benefits. Availability of event monitoring is a great boost to effective power conditioning.

The Panelists

M N Jayasankar, Deputy Manager - IT, Power Grid Corporation of India Limited

M D Agrawal, Chief Manager - IS, Refinery System, BPCL

Ajay Prabhu, Asst VP - IT, UTI Bank

Alagu Balaraman, Sr. VP - IT, Godfrey Phillips India

Avinash Arora, New Holland Tractors (India)

Moderator

A. K. Pathak, President, Computer Society of India

M D Agrawal, Chief Manager - IS, Refinery System, BPCL said:

Today's enterprises require power architectures similar to network architectures. Having such architectures will help specify exact requirements for each location of a geographically distributed infrastructure.

Organizations need to go in for disciplined power quality assessment to monitor factors like noise. I would also like to suggest power audits similar to how network audits are done. If required, IT heads should provide this budget since clean power is most crucial for them.

When planning UPS capacities, the load of air-conditioning equipment should also be taken to account which is usually not done. Redundancy and replacement practices are also very important for enterprises. It is also necessary to have DR planning for power infrastructure.

Ajay Prabhu, Asst VP - IT, UTI Bank said:

In remote locations sometime, power infrastructure is so poor that it calls for at least two levels of redundancies to take care of disaster.

Maintenance is a critical issue. It is very easy to keep levels of redundancy and instruct personnel to provide maintenance at locations. But these conditions may not be met due to lack of knowledge. Therefore, it is necessary to provide education about maintenance and load manipulation.

It is a good idea to have region-wise panels of power conditioning vendors. What we have found is that individual vendors may tend to have specialized products only in a particular region. Although the vendor promises to support the product in other regions, they might not be able to actually provide support. So depending on the vendor's specialty, location and distribution arrangements, we need to identify the vendors for each location.

CONCLUSION

The roundtable was moderated by A K Pathak, President, Computer Society of India. His remarks highlighted the main conclusions arrived at during the roundtable.

A K Pathak, President, Computer Society of India said:

Much thought is going into how to reduce downtime in enterprises due to power outages. This is a very good sign since no power situations can cause businesses to go down due to the tremendous losses involved.

A very good idea that has come up during discussion is about awareness, training and day to day control. This is absolutely necessary to achieve seamless power availability.

It is in this context that redundancy needs to be built into mission critical applications. There is also the need to maintain and audit power requirements. Although this is often talked about, it is usually neglected by most organizations.

Use of Web-enabled applications is useful for resolving problems at remote locations. It is also very useful to employ software benefits like improved power factors and smoother switchovers. This is where IT can be of extreme use for us in effective enterprise power conditioning.

 
     
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