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Integrated Messaging Enables Pre-Emptive Data Center Cooling Automation

The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), headquartered in Austin, Texas, plays a variety of important roles in Central Texas: delivering electricity; managing the water supply and environment of the lower Colorado River basin; planning and coordination of water and wastewater needs; providing public recreation areas; and supporting community and economic development in 58 counties.

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LCRA provides low-cost electricity to more than 40 retail utilities, including cities and electric cooperatives, and operates more than 3,300 miles of transmission lines statewide. It operates six dams on the Colorado River, regulates water discharges to manage floods and releases water for sale to municipal, agricultural and industrial users. Protecting water quality in the lakes and river is also a vital part of LCRA’s mission.

One system at the heart of the LCRA data center is the Facilities Monitoring System (FMS). The FMS began as a simple environmental monitoring system, but it just keeps growing and expanding, according to Mike Lieblich, SCADA Systems Integrator for LCRA Corporate Services. The FMS is responsible for monitoring the main General Office Complex Data Center in Austin, as well as three other smaller centers across town.

 “Our challenge was to build a solution that would allow us to gain maximum visibility into our Data Center sites to manage the environmental issues associated with the centers—temperature, humidity, air flow—which were previously being managed manually. When we had a temperature issue, we didn’t always know right away, and actually had to send a person in to remedy the problem.”

Although there are many software programs that gather and display Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) data, LCRA needed a solution to bring in not only SNMP data but also Modbus TCP and Modbus RTU data, in addition to programmable logic controller (PLC) data, into a single application. “The implementation team was aware of the advantages that iSNMP, a communication product from connectivity supplier Kepware Technologies, in Portland, Maine, could bring to us, but to our knowledge, no one at our company had actually worked with this kind of solution before,” says Lieblich.

 “No one was really sure what we wanted or needed,” Lieblich notes.  “It was all new territory.”   LCRA was using Wonderware InTouch human-machine interface/supervisory control and data acquisition (HMI/SCADA) software from Invensys Operations Management, Plano, Texas, throughout the company. So managers decided to look for a Wonderware solution that would integrate easily into their existing environment. “We found that Kepware could provide the iSNMP technology, and that it would give us the valuable insight we needed into the performance of our control system network.  We also learned that Kepware’s iSNMP driver integrated seamlessly with Wonderware’s InTouch product.”
Once the facilities management team quantified the benefits that they felt could bring the needed cost savings and efficiencies, the plan was rolled out and continues to be upgraded as the Data Centers grow. “Since the time the iSNMP solution was implemented, we have at least tripled the size of the InTouch SCADA application, and we don’t see any end in sight,” Lieblich adds.
Lieblich has been told that LCRA, using Kepware’s iSNMP driver, is one of a very few organizations that have actually pursued monitoring of power from individual power strips on all the racks. LCRA’s system integration team monitors information on several servers and is able to look at different Data Centers locations across Austin. The focus is environmental conditions and power.

The system integration team credits Kepware’s iSNMP, with being a critical component of the system solution.  “We wouldn’t be able to access a lot of data if we weren’t using Kepware’s iSNMP driver.“

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