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479817It’s not uncommon for small businesses to begin operation by stacking server hardware and network appliances on a desk or shelf. Though such a deployment is inexpensive, the pile of equipment invariably expands into an unmanageable mess with the growth of the company. Exposed equipment is also completely open to physical tampering and is a ticking time bomb for accidents such as coffee spills, dust or even workers tripping over wires.

However, rack-mount equipment is designed specifically to properly house this type of hardware. While these tend to be pricier than their non-rack mount equivalents, it’s arguable that being easier to manage far exceeds the cost premium. In addition, shelves and drawers designed for mounting onto the server rack are widely available; these let racks work with non-rack mount appliances as necessary.

Setting up a server rack is more than just twisting a few screws to secure the equipment into place. Proper cable management can’t be overstated, as just about every piece of equipment in the rack is linked with Ethernet cables. Intra-cabinet wiring aside, it makes sense to terminate cable runs for Ethernet LAN points for desktop computers, IP cameras and other network appliances at the rack.

Finally, don’t skimp on labeling and documenting your setup, even for relatively simple deployments. What may be obvious to the employer setting it up could be missed by a new IT staffer or a vendor contracted to work on certain aspects of the system. Time savings aside, proper labeling reduces the likelihood of catastrophic mistakes such as a mission-critical system getting unplugged or restarted without adequate warning.

The simplest way to properly label your infrastructure? Purchase a label printer from a hardware shop. Servers and network appliances should be labeled with unique descriptive names and their IP addresses. Ditto for other equipment such as keyboard, video and mouse switches, NAS appliances, routers, data backup devices and redundant hardware.

Detailed notes describing important procedures relating to your on-premises hardware should be printed out and attached to the server cabinet with tape or refrigerator magnets. These notes should contain important operating instructions relating to networking, data backup or shutting down (or starting up) the equipment in the event of a power outage.

Enhancing Oil,Gas and Power Operations – SCADA via Satellite

Oil and gas operations are located in unforgiving environments, from the blistering cold of the arctic to the scorching heat of the deserts and the storming conditions out on the open sea. To sustain secure operating conditions in these remote areas, reliable communication is as vital to the end-user as the umbilical cord is to an unborn child.

 

Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition

Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) is a unique aspect of oil, gas and power distribution operations in that it does not entail communication between people, but between machines, also known as machine–machine (M2M).

SCADA describes a computer based system that manages mission critical process applications on the ‘factory floor’. These applications are frequently critical for health, safety and the environment.

The term telemetry is often used in combination with SCADA. Telemetry describes the process of collating data and performing remotely controlled actions via a suitable transmission media. In the context of this article, the telemetry media is a satellite communications solution.

SCADA in Oil, Gas and Power Distribution Operations

SCADA is not limited to a particular aspect of these types of operations. In the Oil and Gas industry, SCADA applications can be found in upstream areas such as well monitoring, downstream in areas such as pipeline operations, in trade by managing the fiscal metering/custody transfer operations and logistics in applications such as inventory management of tank storage facilities. SCADA systems in the Power Distribution industry use RTUs and PLCs to perform the majority of on-site control. The RTU or PLC acquires the site data, which includes meter readings, pressure, voltage, or other equipment status, then performs local control and transfers the data to the central SCADA system. However, when comparing and specifying a solution for challenging SCADA environments, RTU and PLC-based systems are not equal.

PLC Systems are Sub-Optimal for Complex SCADA Systems

Originally designed to replace relay logic, PLCs acquire analog and/or digital data through input modules, and execute a program loop while scanning the inputs and taking actions based on these inputs. PLCs perform well in sequential logic control applications with high discrete I/O data counts, but suffer from overly specialized design, which results in limited CPU performance, inadequate communication flexibility, and lack of easy scalability when it comes to adding future requirements other than I/O.
With the rapid expansion of remote site monitoring and control, three critical industry business trends have recently come into focus:

• System performance and intelligence – Process automation improves efficiency, plant safety, and reduces labor costs. However, complex processes like AGA gas flow calculations and high-resolution event capture in electric utility applications require very high performance and system-level intelligence. The reality is that even high-performance PLCs cannot meet all these expectations.

• Communication flexibility – Redundant communication links between remote systems and the central SCADA application form the basis of a reliable, secure, and safe enterprise. Power routing automation in electric applications, water distribution, warning systems, and oil and gas processes all require unique communication mediums including slow dial-up phone lines, medium speed RF, and broadband wired/wireless IP.

• Configurability and reduced costs – Although process monitoring and control are well defined and understood within many industries, the quest for flexibility and reduced Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) remains challenging. In the past, proprietary PLC units customized with third party components filled the niche, but suffered from lack of configurability and higher maintenance costs than fully integrated units. Today, businesses look for complete modular off-the shelf systems that yield high configurability with a significant improvement in TCO.

At the technical level, several requirements currently influence the SCADA specification process:
• Local intelligence and processing – High processing throughput, 64 bit CPUs with expanded memory for user applications and logging with support for highly complex control routines.

• High-speed communication ports – Monitoring large numbers of events requires systems that support multiple RS232/485 connections running at 230/460 kb/s and multiple Ethernet ports with 10/100 Mb/s capability.

• High-density, fast, and highly accurate I/O modules Hardware that implements 12.5 kHz input counters with 16-bit analog inputs and 14-bit analog outputs for improved accuracy.

• Broadband wireless and wired IP communications. Recent innovations in IP devices demands reliable connectivity to local IEDs (Intelligent Electronic Devices) as well as emerging communication network standards.

• Strict adherence to open standard industry protocols including Modbus, DNP3, and DF-1 on serial and TCP/IP ports

• Robust protocols for support of mixed communication environments.

• Protection of critical infrastructure – Enhanced security such as password-protected programming, over the air encryption, authentication, and IP firewall capability.

Selecting a Satellite Communication Solution – Factors to Consider

Security

When selecting a satellite communications solution, there are numerous factors that must be considered. Enterprise applications like e-mail, Internet access, telephony, videoconferencing, etc. frequently tie into public communications infrastructure. Due to security and reliability considerations it is considered best practice to isolate mission critical SCADA communications infrastructure from public networks.

The Rustyice solution is a dedicated satellite communications network solution tailored for the SCADA applications environment. By virtue of system design, our solution offers greater security against hacker attacks and virus infestation which mainly target computers that are connected to the Internet and are running office applications.

Reliability

Due to the critical nature of most SCADA operations, a reliable communication solution is of utmost importance. The satellite communications industry is mature with a proven track record. Satellite transponder availability is typically in the 99.99 percentile range, a number far superior to that of terrestrial networks. To build on this strength, our solution utilises a miniature satellite hub that is deployed at the end-users SCADA control centre. Data to/from the remote terminal units (RTUs) are piped directly into the SCADA system. There is no vulnerable terrestrial back-haul from a communication service providers facility, which can cause the entire network to crash if cut during public works, i.e. digging.

To increase the reliability of the hub, it is frequently deployed in a redundant/load sharing configuration. This ensures that the hub is available more than 100% of the time, making it far from the weakest link in the communication chain.

Types of Connectivity

Contrary to enterprise-related communications which take place randomly, SCADA communication is quite predictable. It is a continuous process, where the SCADA application polls the RTUs at regular intervals. The outgoing poll request is a short datagram (packet) containing as few as 10 bytes. The returned data from the RTUs are also in a datagram format with the message size being from 10 bytes to 250 bytes. One could easily assume that a satellite solution based upon dial-up connectivity such as Inmarsat, Iridium or Globalstar would be ideal for this application environment. Since SCADA is not just data collection, but also entails control (which at times can be of an emergency nature), you simply cannot wait for the system to encounter a busy connection. What is needed is a system that provides an ‘always on’ type of connection, commonly referred to as leased line connectivity.

A Rustyice solution supports both circuit switched (leased line and multi drop) and packet switched (TCP/IP and X.25) applications concurrently.

Contact us today to speak to one of our representatives and examine how a Rustyice Satellite SCADA solution can offer your operations the best of all worlds.

Energy Retrofits and Building Automation Save the Life and Expenses of a Building

The environmental impact buildings have in the UK is at alarming levels — accounting for 40% of the nation’s energy usage and an equal percentage of carbon output, and, when you consider water consumption, waste management and vehicle transportation for waste management as well as employees of the building, it is clear that change is necessary.

Building automation is the leading solution towards streamlining building energy management. Although BREEAM (BRE Environmental Assessment Method) certification is a goal for many new buildings, often the certification covers only the construction and design process. (BREEAM) is a voluntary measurement rating for green buildings that was established in the UK by the Building Research Establishment (BRE). Since its inception it has since grown in scope and geographically, being exported in various guises across the globe. Its equivalents in other regions include LEED North America and Green Star in Australia, and HQE in France. BRE and CSTB (the French Building research centre) have signed a memorandum of understanding committing them to the alignment of BREEAM and HQE. It’s simple when it’s a project being worked on externally by a team. But once the building is occupied and in use, often the building maintenance team poorly manages lighting control, elevator access control, heating / ventilation and air conditioning, the building’s efficiency potential is not met, and the building uses an unnecessary amount of energy.

Not only should the focus be on constructing a sustainable Building Solution, but also on retrofitting old buildings to be greener and more energy efficient. By conserving water and utilising renewable energy, as well as implementing building automation systems, even older buildings can benefit from energy retrofittings.

Most building occupants applaud and welcome the idea of greening a building, but when it comes to behavioural change for the individual, many fail to change their ways, keeping the greening process from reaching its potential. Simple habit changes such as manually turning lights on after a timer has shut them off, or returning cutlery and dishes to the dishwasher instead of tossing out disposable plasticware can be resisted by employees.

Old buildings represent only 4% of BREEAM-certified square footage, but account for a fifth of BREEAM registered square feet. Making existing buildings greener poses a number of challenges, as it is a multi-faceted project to attack and integrate building systems. The coordination of a number of priorities is necessary, and often, they clash. For instance, meeting the requirements of energy efficiency with heating and air conditioning, while meeting the the comfort needs of occupants. Often instead of the greening falling under one large project, it is broken into conflicting pieces where different departments overlook a specific aspect of the building while it clashes with the energy needs of another aspect.

Above all other challenges, the budget for going green is the most difficult for building owners and building management to monitor and control. Most organisations have a long list of budget priorities and constraints, with an aim to increase their bottom line as much as possible. While going green does provide an increased return on investment, it takes some time to create and see the changes.

At Rustyice Solutions, our experience in the design and integration of BMS gives us the edge. We are confident that Rustyice Solutions Smart Building Technologies and information management will help you to competitively differentiate and thus win more business if your building houses tenants or save more money if the building is owned outright. Our unique solution design and sub-contract services will take your building project performance to another level. Call us today on 0800 012 1090 and speak to one of our Building Management Advisors. What have you got to lose except the waste?

Generator Sizing and Compatibility for Uninterruptible Power Supplies

Most critical power protection solutions, incorporating uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), today are interfaced with an alternative source of back-up power (standby power) which could be a fuel cell or flywheel but more usually it is a diesel generator. Generator sizing and UPS compatibility are fundamental to power continuity and must be taken into account at the outset of any power protection plan.

Power Rating

A generator must be sized correctly so that when it’s required to do so it will be able to power the UPS (taking into account any allowance for harmonics that the UPS’s rectifier will generate) and the load/s that the UPS is supplying. Generators are typically rated in two ways:

Prime Power Rating (PPR) – whereby the generator supplies power as an alternative to the mains power supply, but on an unlimited basis.

Standby Power Rating (SPR) – whereby the generator supplies power as an alternative to the mains power supply but for a short duration, typically one hour out of every twelve.

A generator rated under SPR can be as much as 10 percent larger than one sized using PPR. This provides an overload capability for a short duration, perhaps to meet sudden load demand changes, for example.

For an uninterruptible power supply installation, PPR is the more suitable method of rating. It is extremely important, for achieving greater resilience (fault tolerance), that a generator and its UPS are suitably matched. Not only must a generator be able to accept the load of the uninterruptible power supply but the UPS rectifier and static bypass supplies must be able to operate with, and synchronise to, the output of the generator.

Generator set manufacturers have four recognised categories of load acceptance: one = 100%, two = 80%, three = 60% and four = 24%. Categories two, three and four are used in practice for PPR-rated generators. Load acceptance is closely related to the turbo charging system and the Break Mean Effective Pressure (BMEP) of the engine. This is a function of engine speed, number of cylinders and the swept volume of each cylinder.

Synchronisation

For load acceptance to occur, a UPS must be able to synchronise to the voltage waveform supplied by the generator. Uninterruptible power supplies tend to have fairly wide input voltage windows and generator output is usually well within this. Its frequency, however, can vary, which can be problematic. This is overcome by widening the UPS operating parameters to accept a broader range. This may not always be sufficient, particularly for poorly maintained or undersized generators. Their output frequencies could drift and make it impossible for the UPS to synchronise.

A generator can never be matched on a 1:1 aspect ratio with an uninterruptible power supply. A UPS will at times be drawing additional current to charge its battery set. Generator sizing may also have to take into account the powering of essential loads, air-conditioning, for example, and emergency lighting. As already mentioned, a UPS rectifier can generate harmonics and this needs also be the taken into consideration when sizing the generator.

Ambient Temperature

The ambient temperature around a generator is important. It is usual for the engine room temperature to rise by around 10 degrees centigrade when a generator is in operation. Things can get quite hot if the outside temperature is also hot. High ambient temperatures can degrade generator performance and cause damage to turbo-chargers and exhaust systems. In such instances, it is normal to de-rate and increase the overall size of the generator installation.

Recommended practice is to oversize a generator by a factor of one-and-a-quarter to two-times the size of the uninterruptible power supply and to increase this to three-times or more when additional essential loads are to be powered.