June 2008

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Data Center Retrofit Now Able to Handle High-Density Server Applications
Contemporary Controls’ BAS Switch Handles the Traffic Without “Choking”

Debra Biela
Marketing Communications Specialist
Contemporary Controls



As cited by a survey conducted by OnPath Technologies, lack of space, power inefficiencies, and increasing disaster recovery needs comprise the main reasons for the increase in data center construction. (OnPath Technologies is a provider of automated Layer 1 connectivity solutions for enabling companies to virtualize their physical infrastructure layers.) What most people don’t realize is the importance of the data center infrastructure to prevent network downtime. Too much emphasis is given on the virtualization of applications, servers, storage, etc. and not enough attention to the infrastructure to handle the data efficiently and securely.

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It takes components like Contemporary Controls Ethernet switches and cabling to keep the infrastructure running smoothly and to extend the infrastructure’s life cycle. Every device impacts the overall operation and that’s what every network operations professional should understand.

After a considerable renovation in 2006, one data center in the United States is ready to meet the special requirements of global carriers, content delivery networks, and enterprises. Located in downtown Los Angeles, the data center spans 450,000 square feet over five floors. The building’s management firm said it’s the ideal spot for high-density server applications. Diverse substations supplying high-voltage electricity combined with 16-foot ceilings and 150 lbs/square foot floor loading capacity will support the most demanding co-location applications.

Azusa, California-based Sunbelt Controls completed this building controls retrofit for a premier co-location and data center management company headquartered in Denver, Colorado. Sunbelt Controls is the largest Automated LogicÒ Corporation (ALC) controls dealer in the western U.S. It’s a division of ACCO Engineered Systems, the 3rd largest mechanical contractor in the country.

When the discussion of what switch to use in the network infrastructure arose, Sunbelt Controls found the answer in a product release in Control Engineering Magazine. This release advertised an industrial-grade Ethernet switch designed for building automation systems by Contemporary Controls in Downers Grove, Illinois. The EIBA5-100T/R switch would replace the existing consumer-grade switch. Sunbelt Controls Project Manager/Sales Engineer Robert Grenader said we needed a dependable switch to handle the traffic load without hang-ups which is a problem if you’re using consumer-grade hardware.

The Story

This data center was built in 2002, but the existing Direct Digital Control (DDC) system was left idle for years. “The system was never commissioned after the dot.com bubble burst,” Grenader explained. “I and my team of engineers realized the pressure was on for a complete system upgrade within a set timeline. The upgrade was necessary because devices from the existing system were no longer available and expansion was limited to the degree that it couldn’t meet the needs of the new owner.”

SwitchingTo accomplish this, Sunbelt Controls installed ALC’s state-of-the art HVAC equipment and controls to improve maintenance and energy use. “We are monitoring more than 100 Computer Room Air Conditioner (CRAC) systems, 10 UPS systems, emergency generators, air-cooled chillers, roof-top cooling systems, electrical circuits, and overhead/underfloor leak detection systems,” said Grenader. “ALC’s system made it possible to interface over the customer’s Ethernet LAN as well as various protocols including BACnet/IP, BACnet via MS/TP, TCP/IP and ARCNETÒ,” said Grenader. “Two other benefits were ease of use and scalability.”

Grenader said the system entailed properly-sized pieces of equipment. “The equipment wasn’t too large,” he explained. “Just the right size to work efficiently and to maintain better comfort.” He added that all this system traffic goes through a consumer-grade, five-port Ethernet switch connected to the dedicated building automation server located in the MDF, the facility’s main computer room.

But in this application, the switch posed a problem. Periodically, it would lock up due to excessive packet collisions requiring a power down to be performed to restore communication. In addition, there lacked a good method to install the switch in the control enclosures.

As an option, Sunbelt Controls chose to use one of Contemporary Controls’ industrial-grade, five-port Ethernet switches since the the customer’s LAN was Ethernet. “With the EIBA5-100T/R we were able to take ALC system traffic onto the facility LAN, allowing us to take advantage of the gigabit backbone and remove traffic from our 156k ARCNET,” indicated Grenader.

This switch provided the functionality, DIN-rail mounting convenience, and ruggedness to fill the needs of this application. Sunbelt Controls was pleased with its $99 price tag and its compact size (measuring only 3.3" H x 3.5" W x 0.97" D). Engineers were able to mount it in a cabinet and operate it from the same source that powers other BAS equipment, making installation neat and secure. This device accepted 24 VAC for consistent power throughout the application and no extra wiring was required. The LEDs on this unit faced the technician for easy network troubleshooting. The label on the device can be written upon so port connections can be documented as to the location of connected equipment. Built-in broadcast storm control prevented excessive broadcasts from degrading network performance. The product was designed to meet all regulatory standards including RoHS.

Control Module Riser

“More importantly in more than six months of operation, we have had no instance of this switch locking up due to excessive traffic,” admitted Grenader. “That’s far better than a consumer-grade product.”

[an error occurred while processing this directive] This switch is installed in a temperature control panel (TCP) located on the second floor among ALC’s LGR

high-speed Ethernet router and a TraneÒ BCU with connection to the building automation server. The LGR connects the control modules to a BACnet/IP backbone. Designed with many benefits, the LGR router has the power to serve the most demanding translation and communications functions. CAT5 cabling from the EIBA5-100T/R to the LAN is less than 90 meters. Wiring routes from the first TCP to one M line (multi-equipment application) control module located on the lower level. The M line utilizes native BACnet communications over a high-speed ARCNET 156 Kbps network. The ARCNET limit is 2500 feet. The wiring travels from the M Line controller (on the lower level) to several control modules (enclosed in TCPs) including the S Line (single-equipment application) units on the second floor. The S line uses native BACnet communications to field devices over a high-speed BACnet MS/TP network. The wiring continues from the second floor to the roof level, connecting the zone controllers and other control modules. The zone controllers are for VAC, heat pump, unit ventilator and other packaged HV-ac applications. The wiring back loops from the roof level to the second floor of control modules to complete the network infrastructure.

All equipment was upgraded to ALC’s WebCTRL building automation system because of its excellent browser-based user interface and native BACnet open protocol. Through a browser anyone can access all building management functions including: set and change schedules, adjust setpoints and other control parameters, graphically trend important building conditions, run preconfigured and custom reports on energy usage and much more.

By pulling everyone’s efforts together, the project was completed on time. Due to the much needed retrofit, the customer gained substantial savings. “The customer was finally able to access and monitor the critical data center equipment,” said Grenader.


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