DC BLOX: Customized SCADA solution

Success Stories

DC BLOX: Proactively identifying equipment problems and managing data center customer costs with a customized SCADA solution.

Affinity Energy worked with DC Blox to create a SCADA solution with some EPMS capability. Affinity Energy proposed Trihedral VTSCADA, a cost-effective, customizable, and redundant SCADA solution.

DC Blox Overview Hero

DC BLOX

DC BLOX is a colocation data center provider targeting small to medium-sized businesses in small regions outside larger metropolises. Building a highly distributed network of small (<20,000 sq. ft) data centers connected by a high-speed fiber optic backbone, the company has plans to build 19 in total across the Southeastern United States. DC BLOX acquired their first data center in Chattanooga, TN. Next, they designed and built a data center with their signature footprint in Huntsville, AL. Similar in design and equipment, their third data center is nearing completion in Birmingham, AL.

Allan and Victor have been great to work with. We appreciate all the attention to detail.

Brian Banner, SVP Data Center Engineering & Development, DC BLOX

Challenge:

DC BLOX’s first data center was acquired in Chattanooga, bringing with it a Tridium EPMS system. Operators felt the inherited system wasn’t very flexible, resilient, or easy to use. They also didn’t have much confidence in the support and responsiveness of the original systems integrator.

DC BLOX wanted a cost-effective tool to proactively identify problems with data center equipment, and manage the cost associated with their tenants. Specifically, they needed to track tenant network and power usage in real time to determine if customers were exceeding their committed power limit.

Due to DC BLOX’s plans for rapid growth across the Southeast, redundancy and architecture scalability in a cost-effective manner was key to a new company-wide system.

The SVP of Data Center Engineering & Development at DC BLOX started exploring options to replace the system in Chattanooga. He knew Affinity Energy’s ability to design, develop, install, and commission SCADA and EPMS systems from previous work on data center projects at QTS, and contacted Affinity Energy in 2017, who provided a preliminary proposal.

DC BLOX suddenly shifted gears and placed Chattanooga on the backburner, but decided to instead engage Affinity Energy on the newest data center designed and built by DC BLOX in Huntsville with the system Affinity Energy proposed for the Chattanooga site.

Solution:

Because power quality information wasn’t DC BLOX’s main driver, Affinity Energy quickly determined a traditional EPMS wasn’t the right fit. What this data center needed was a SCADA solution with some EPMS capability. Affinity Energy proposed Trihedral VTSCADA, a cost-effective, customizable, and redundant SCADA solution.

A key feature of the EPMS system is the integration of the busway bus-plugs that supply power to the customer cabinets in the data center. Affinity Energy’s engineers integrated the Trendpoint meters that were built into the bus-plugs and built a custom display and report that is a key function of the EPMS system. This allows DC BLOX to ensure tenants are operating within the terms of their contract, helping them adjust that contract as tenant needs grow.

Affinity Energy also integrated critical data center equipment such as generators, ATSs, UPSs, PDUs and CRACs, allowing DC BLOX to receive customized alerts when equipment malfunctions or limits are exceeded.

Piggybacking off the already-existing high-speed backbone between data centers, Affinity Energy implemented VTSCADA in a redundant hub-and-spoke architecture. This allows each data center to operate independently but also be backed up at DC BLOX’s network operation center in Atlanta. Should the local system fail, the redundant system in Atlanta acts as an on-line backup, and local users retain the capability to interact with local data center equipment, run reports, receive alerts, and view tenant power usage. The redundant system also acts as a global view into all DC BLOX data centers.

VTSCADA’s HMI was a collaborative effort between Affinity Energy and DC BLOX operators. The result is a highly customized and unique screen that allows DC Blox to offer their customers a high availability environment for co-locating their IT assets. Operators can easily generate monthly reports on data center efficiency, ensure loads are balanced between A and B systems, and interface to their customer portal using simple network management protocol.

Results:

Affinity Energy was able to help DC BLOX architect a high availability EPMS and SCADA solution that is scalable, provides them with the ability to manage critical equipment, and reports customer power usage.

If need arises for technical assistance or further customization, Affinity Energy uses two-factor secure remote access to provide responsive technical support and incorporate changes in a cost-effective manner. Due to the cost-effective and quick reporting built-in to VTSCADA, Affinity Energy is also exploring the capability to interface to networking switches and record and report network usage, similar to how we handle power.

Affinity Energy completed the Huntsville data center SCADA solution in July 2018. DC BLOX was so impressed with the system, that they officially awarded Affinity Energy both the Chattanooga retrofit/site expansion and Birmingham’s new SCADA system in January 2019. Both systems are expended to be completed by July 2019.

Thanks!! Very happy to see how quick you can program this application.

Jeff Williams, Director - Data Center Operations

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