Council keeps its cool in data centre meltdown

Air conditioners would just blow up

After a series of ugly incidents in the data centre, which were the result of overheating, Maribyrnong city council knew it was time to get serious about its failing infrastructure.

The council, which borders the city of Melbourne and has 63,000 residents and 3,000 businesses, was managing a data centre with 23 servers, a multitude of UPS devices, four disparate racks from different vendors and a domestic air conditioning unit.

The UPS units had insufficient capacity, providing the council with zero uptime in the event of a power outage, according to Mark Bretherton, the local government authority's network administrator.

He said valuable time was wasted with IT staff managing each UPS unit and rack individually as well as maintaining a mass of cables.

"The large domestic air conditioning units the council used to cool its data centre were inefficient and unreliable, breaking down on several occasions," Bretherton said.

"One incident occurred on the day I returned from holidays. I received a phone call saying there was a strange beeping coming from the server room.

"When I arrived, I discovered the temperature in the data centre had reached over 40 degrees. The optimum working temperature is 20 degrees."

Bretherton said even triple redundancy cooling failed to prevent the second overheating incident.

This is when one of the data centre's air conditioning units blew up, the second unit tripped the circuit breaker and the third unit couldn't cope on a particularly hot day.

"The overheating of the data centre equipment significantly shortened the life of several servers which subsequently had to be replaced," he said.

"After the second incident, we had to get serious. We decided to combine two projects - upgrading the UPS and data centre cooling solutions."

Bretherton said Maribyrnong council held a closed tender and viewed UPS and cooling products from three different vendors.

"But APC stood out because it offered a complete integrated data centre solution," he said.

"We decided to go with APC as it was the only vendor to offer a complete solution rather than just pieces. Also, we had used APC products in the past and had a very good run with them."

Following a site visit, the council went with a 20KW InfraStruXure solution, as well as two NetworkAIR cooling solutions, an environmental monitoring system and an additional 5KVA UPS for failover redundancy.

APC's InfraStruXure solution fully integrates power, cooling, and environmental management within a rack-optimised design.

Bretherton said it was all installed and operational within 36 hours.

"We now have redundancy on our UPS, cooling and hardware. Now if something fails, we have a spare of everything," he said adding that the solution also allows for 50 minutes uptime in the event of power failure.

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