Do CPGs Need a Micro Data Center?

Oct. 26, 2022
At PACK EXPO International, Stratus Technologies and Schneider Electric demonstrate how the EcoStruxure Micro Data Center with Stratus ftServer can consolidate disparate automation and control applications into a single redundant platform.

Data centers—which are typically housed in their own separate section of a facility for consolidation of routers, switches, firewalls, storage systems, servers, and application controllers—are a key aspect of enterprise IT. Micro data centers (MDCs), are small, modular versions of data centers used to manage specific operations’ computing workloads. With their ability to be installed nearly anywhere in a facility, MDCs are quickly being recognized for their key role in industry’s IT/operations technology (OT) convergence.

At PACK EXPO International, Stratus and Schneider Electric (at booth LU-7245) are showcasing three sizes of the EcoStruxure MDC, which feature the Stratus ftServer, to highlight their use in CPG and pharma/life sciences applications:

  • Small: Stratus ftServer powered by a 1.5kVA Smart-UPS in a 6U enclosure;
  • Medium: Stratus ftServer powered by a 2.2kVA Smart-UPS in a single 12U enclosure; and
  • Large: Stratus ftServer powered by a 3kVA Smart-UPS in a 42U, NEMA-12 rated enclosure.

The different size options are presented to highlight the MDCs’ application flexibility in a range of CPG operations. Size can scale up from 6U to 42U depending on how many devices and networking equipment need to be embedded in the panel with the ftServer and UPS (uninterruptible power supply).

Key features of the edge ftServer include embedded cybersecurity, no unscheduled downtime with failure prediction capabilities, single button restoration, and remote monitoring ability.

IT/OT convergence

While MDCs are typically designed for IT workloads, Stratus and Schneider Electric note the EcoStruxure Micro Data Center is suitable for OT applications like on-premises automation and control systems in the CPG and pharmaceutical/life sciences industries.

“In effect, what we are providing customers and partners is a complete offering—originally meant for IT applications—that can be used for HMI/SCADA, historians, batch processing, manufacturing execution systems, asset performance management, and cybersecurity solutions,” said Jay David, senior manager for solutions marketing at Stratus.

Integration with existing equipment in a production facility is handled in the same manner as any brownfield project, said David. “The Micro Data Center can replace any or all the components associated with the server control panel, such as automation and control software, computers where the software is installed, UPS and power supplies, and networking equipment.”

Because the MDC comes with everything pre-installed and tested, it is easier for non-IT customers to deploy the automation and control systems, added David.

For OEMs, integrators, and end users

Featuring Stratus’ continuous availability and Schneider Electric’s power redundancy in the enclosed panel, these MDCs are purpose-built for an industrial environment for use by OEMs, system integrators, and end users.

“OEMs can use the MDCs to develop repeatable automation and control systems; system integrators can create solutions that contain standardized code and applications that they can easily drop in a virtual image of the ftServer; and end users can use the MDCs to consolidate disparate applications in a single platform,” said Elliott Jepson, strategy and innovation manager for the Secure Power Division at Schneider Electric. “And thin clients can be used with the MDCs to enable monitoring and control outside of the control room via mobile phones, tablets, and laptops.”

Jepson adds that the EcoStruxure MDC with Stratus ftServer comes completely validated, pre-wired, and with the automation and control software pre-loaded. “This way, customers, integrators, and VAR/OEMs can focus on their key expertise,” he said. “Because everything is tested and prebuilt, the MDC can be commissioned by controls engineers or technicians who don’t have any IT experience.”

Jepson said Schneider Electric and Stratus estimate “huge engineering and operations savings when an MDC is deployed versus a typically built control panels, with 40% less field engineering time, 20% faster time-to-market, and 7% less maintenance costs overall.”

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