Is loadbank testing necessary for containerised data centres?

Is loadbank testing necessary for containerised data centres?

Paul Brickman, Commercial Director for Crestchic Loadbanks, a leading manufacturer of state-of-the-art loadbank technologies, questions whether loadbank testing is necessary for containerised data centres.

With an ever-expanding remit of applications, containerised, or mobile, data centres are rapidly becoming the go-to solution for meeting today’s dynamic, high-volume data processing and communication demands. But is the temporary nature of these transportable data centres leaving them susceptible to poor maintenance practices and potential power failure?

Typically housed within shipping containers, containerised data centres can be deployed easily, powered up quickly and scaled without delay in line with changing requirements. For the data centre sector itself, containerised solutions are widely used to accommodate surplus demand for data centres that need to grow but cannot yet do so, and often deliver continuity of performance when a primary data centre needs critical maintenance or refurbishment.

In other sectors, they are equally as important. They provide ‘pop up’ IT and communication services for music festivals and sporting events, support office relocations and major construction sites and are a staple resource for the military, as well as complex industries such as offshore oil and gas, where data and communications demands are often remote and temporary.

Temporary by name, essential by nature

The temporary nature of these data centres often results in them being commoditised and overlooked when it comes to the maintenance procedures and performance best practice that would be considered essential for a bricks-and-mortar data centre.

But when in operation, these mobile data centres are just as much a necessity as their permanent counterparts, safe-housing the same valuable data and preventing the same financially catastrophic losses engineers so dread when maintaining their primary data centres.

It is important to remember that a data centre is a data centre, whether that is a purpose-built hyperscale campus, a colo or a temporary solution in a shipping container, and that means the same risks apply and the same preventative measures are required.

No matter the type of data centre being used, the primary cause of unplanned downtime is power failure, something that the Uptime Institute calls ‘common, costly and preventable’. In fact, in its most recent Risk and Resilience Report, the Uptime Institute calculated that power failure accounts for around 36% of all outages.

It is essential, therefore, that backup generators for containerised data centres are regularly tested, the same as permanent data centre facilities.

Critical applications require guaranteed resilience

Music festivals and sporting events aside, the vast majority of containerised data centre applications are critical. Military communications, major construction sites, data centre refurbishments and a temporary expansion of primary data centre capacity may all have a clear expiration date, but the situation is already fragile – risking a power outage in an already difficult environment could be catastrophic.

Although mobile data centres are designed to provide facilities with the perfect mix of temporary generators, networking essentials, cooling equipment, servers and UPS, the fact remains that a single point of failure can immobilise the entire data centre. This is an important consideration when deciding which maintenance procedures to uphold, and which if any, can be overlooked.

With power outages proven to be the biggest point of failure, correct loadbank testing should be maintained at all times to provide reassurance that if required, the backup power system is capable of accepting the required load and maintaining uptime in the event of a power failure.

Understand the possibilities, prevent downtime

If it is not the temporary nature of a containerised data centre that prevents the required maintenance, then it is often the location and the assumption that access will be impossible. Afterall, these small, highly portable loadbanks are often located in areas that have not been specifically constructed for such essential kit.

That said, leading loadbank manufacturers have created backup generator testing equipment that can meet the testing demands of containerised data centres.

One example is Crestchic’s trailer mounted loadbank solution that combines the powerful testing capability of its traditional resistive-only loadbanks, with the flexibility of a heavy-duty trailer for applications that require exceptional levels of manoeuvrability.

With loadbank testing still achievable for mobile loadbanks, the risk of downtime is, as the Uptime Institute put it, preventable. 

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