Next generation data centers: the modular transformation

24. April 2012 15:10

Every business is a digital business. There has been a massive increase in digital activity, due to proliferation of smart phones, tablets, and laptops. More data is changing the way the world works. The data center is the factory of today's economy.

Next generation data centers: the modular transformation

Andreas Zoll, VP Engineering and Procurement, IO was the speaker. IO provides intelligent control through our integrated modular approach to digital energy technology for the world's largest enterprises, governments, and service providers.

Some stats that show the importance of data centers today:

  • 38 billion Facebook photos shared
  • 295 exabytes of data stored, and 30 exabytes of data shared
  • 730 million corporate email accounts, three billion email accounts
  • 25 billion tweets sent
  • Half a trillion emails are sent every day

The cloud is brick and mortar, it's a building; specifically it's a data center.

Data creation is growing at 60% per year. Wal-Mart adds a billion rows per minute to its database. One sequenced human genome is two petabyte (a petabyte is a one followed by 15 zeros). Source: Intel's Director of Tera-Scale Computing

The amount of all data produced in 2009 was 0.8 zetabytes (ZB) (one followed by twenty zeros, or one trillion GB). By 2020, the amount will be 30 ZB.

The data center today is custom designed and built. There are too many parts, no standardization, no software, no information or analytics that mean anything, no efficiency or utilization optimization, and is overbuilt to ensure energy continuity, which results in high infrastructure cost and low server utilization. Data centers today are snowflakes, they cannot be duplicated exactly.

The problem is that construction-based data centers cannot keep pace with technology. There is zero operational flexibility, they take too long to build, and cost too much on a unit basis.

The solution is modular hardware and software. Construction-based data centers take 18-36 months to build, reduced to 120 days with modular data centers. Annual operational man hours are halved from 42,000 to 21,000. Perhaps most importantly, modular data centers have fully integrated control, whereas in traditional construction-based data centers, there is no integrated control. Finally, cooling and power utilization is increased from 25% to 70%.

The result of using modular data centers over using data centers connected to a building is:
  • improved design flexibility
  • lower operating cost
  • greater efficiency and utilization
  • aligned with IT improvements
  • delivered or hosted solution
  • lower, just-in-time capital investment

 data centers 

Megatrends impacting businesses today and in the future

23. April 2012 22:57

Continuing the Mega Trends Series at Automation & Power World 2011, this session targets emerging global changes in demographic, environment, energy, and politics that are set to change the face of the future. What do the changes mean to the global economy? Are we ready for the future shock and the opportunity? What changes are coming in the way business operates and manufacturers produce?

Seth Rao, VP Industrial Automation and Process Control at Frost & Sullivan presented megatrends, and how they project key impacts to the world, especially industrial automation and process control.

Mr. Rao used an acronym called "DEEP-KIC", which explains the key factors impacting business below:



Here are some highlights during Mr. Rao's talk:

There is a geographic realignment, leading to impact on the workforce in the developed Western economies. Simply put, the workforce is aging rapidly in places like North America, Europe, and Russia, while the growth rate in Brazil, Inida, and China is rising, so working age youngsters will be entering the middle class.

China and India accounted for 10 % of worlds total energy consumption in 1990, 19 % in 2006, and is expected to be 28% in 2030. This will lead to a realignment of finite resources across the globe.

BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) have the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio, poising them better for sutainiable growth.

By 2020, a bulk of global output will come from the emerging world. In Europe and the US, this will lead to plant closures and possible reconversions. For the industrial automation world, this will mean new plug-and-play facilities that will cut land use by 35%. Build-to-suit space will remain a key focus for industrial plants. The concept is to adapt the Regus plug and play office model to the industrial world.

Integrated Operations will drive operational excellence (opex) and resource efficiency. The goal is to drive data in relevant time, new workflows, proactive focus, to execute faster and better decisions at reduced operational cost and increased production efficiency

Decarbonize the Wworld through mitigiation of two global Issues: rising greenhouse gas emissions, and water supply, especially water stressed regions, North Africa, Middle East, India.

SMART Power - Balance three issues:
Fuel supply and costs
Global energy demand

Automated Demand Response

Sustainability: From green to Carbon Neutral Establishments. Volvo, Marks & Spencer and Pesico all have carbon-neutral factories. Carbon neutral includes rainwater harvesting, ground-source heat pumps, and energy productions via renewable sources.

Zero emission technologies: top ten technologies by 2020:
SMART Buildings
LED lighting
SMART grid
Advanced Batteries and Energy Storage
Fuel Cells
Solar PV
Water Re Use and Desalination
Energy Recorvery from Waste
Carbon capture and storage
Energy Efficiency in Buildings

Developing markets are expected to invest US$6.23 Trillion by 2030 in Power Market. Offshore will represent at least 80% of discovery volumes by 2030. By 2035, at least 70% of conventional oil reserves will have to be newly discovered or developed.

A retiring workforce is going to impact human centered design in Industrial Automation. Average age of technical professionals in the energy industry is greater than 50 years. The average rate of recruitment needs to be greater than 5% just to keep pace with the number of people leaving the industries.


How many miles per gallon does your boiler get?

23. April 2012 22:55

Improving the efficiency of power and process steam boilers can significantly reduce energy costs

For nearly two decades, the price of oil hovered around $20 a barrel. Until 2002, a factory running an average sized industrial boiler could expect an annual fuel bill of around $5 million dollars. By 2007, increases in energy prices doubled this fuel bill to $10 million, and just one year later, the price of fuel doubled again to $20 million for the same boiler.

There are many steps a plant can take to help stay level as the ground continues to rise under our feet.

Many boiler control loops, which ensure the efficient operation of a boiler's various elements (valves, air inlets, burners), are not actively maintained, and as many as 35 percent of these are operated manually. Many boiler control loops have also degraded in performance to the point where they not only waste energy, but actually stand in the way of production. For example, inefficient boilers often have a sluggish response to changes in steam demand.

By tuning control loops and automating manual or neglected process, boilers can run closer to their performance limits with significantly less waste. One chemical plant was able to realize $300,000 in energy savings across four boilers, as well as improved performance, from a $75,000 investment.

Many boilers must also coordinate with multiple, interacting processes. An advanced automation and energy management solution can help power and co-gen plants optimize complexities from spikes in electricity prices to contractual generation obligations. This can create annual energy savings of over a million dollars which previously--literally--went up in smoke.

Reported by Phil Lewin


Smart grid on a shoestring

23. April 2012 17:53

Smart grid technology can deliver improvements in reliability and efficiency--on the cheap

There's a standing joke in the utility industry about smart grid, namely that if you ask ten people what the term "smart grid" means you’ll get twelve different answers.

Mainstream media reports typically focus on smart meters and home automation—things that touch the consumer. However much of the benefit smart grid technology can provide is on the utility side of the meter, but these benefits directly impact consumers just the same.

Such is the case with fault detection, isolation and restoration (FDIR) and volt-VAr optimization (VVO). The technical terms obscure the very real benefits these schemes can deliver in the form of greater reliability (read: shorter outages and less of them) and increased efficiency (i.e., providing the same electricity service at lower cost).

In fact, there is now ample data that shows FDIR can reduce outage length and frequency by up to 30% and VVO can reduce line losses by 7%, which in turn means the utility needs to generate or procure 3-6% less power to provide the same level of service.

In dollar terms, FDIR deployments can expect to generate $1.80 in benefits for every dollar spent over a six to eight year planning horizon. For VVO the figure is $2.60, and simple monitoring and diagnostic systems can yield an incredible $6 or more per dollar invested.

The kicker is that these technologies can be deployed at any scale, so you don’t need to commit to a multi-million dollar project. A pilot FDIR scheme on a single feeder, for example, can be implemented for as little as $35,000. This makes it possible for utilities to apply smart grid technologies in small doses, see how they work, and then deploy them across larger areas knowing that they have a rock solid business case.

Take that to your next PUC meeting.


Top three cyber security myths

23. April 2012 14:00

"Cyber security issues are here to stay." So said ABB CEO Joe Hogan in his keynote at Automation & Power World 2011, and indeed cyber security remains a hot topic. Still, there is a wide range of sophistication among system operators. And certain myths about security persist. The top three according to Jim Lemanowicz, Cyber Security manager for ABB’s power generation business:
  • Serial links are safe—security is only an issue on TCP/IP based systems – in reality, cyber threats exist for all systems, even those that don’t make use of internet protocol technologies.
  • My facility is at more risk of a physical attack than a cyber attack – Cyber can be accidental, but when they are not they can also be highly sophisticated; don’t assume you’re not a target.
  • Isolated systems are inherently secure – In fact, most systems are not isolated; even those that are physically separated from the internet are still susceptible to security breach via portable media and temporary connections.
Ultimately, cyber security is about risk management and it requires the same kind of ongoing attention, resources and evolution that a risk management process does. Security is just that—a process—and as the cliché goes, it’s the journey not the destination that matters.

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