Marc Bowman, Multi-Circuit Metering Systems (MCMS) Product General Manager for Anord Mardix, delves into the factors that distinguishes MCM systems.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “metering only at the site and building level is often the cheapest option, however, it is generally insufficient when trying to determine system and facility performance.” And if a data center (DC) has just site or system level monitoring, or is relying on traditional branch-circuit monitoring to track system performance, that leaves an information gap. Multi-Circuit Monitoring Systems (MCMS) offer new solutions to close that gap.
To date, metering engineering specifications for mission-critical facilities have typically focused on high-level power quality metering (PQM). For example, some DCs use switchgear and high-level meters to measure overall power quality and waveform capture. By contrast, branch circuit monitoring (BCM) has focused more on low-level components, measuring watts and other granular data. The power of an MCMS is that it can provide PQM-quality data at the branch circuit level. This is accomplished not by simply adding more meters, but by adding the right, integrated metering systems.
Only by integrating both upstream data (site, building, switchboard level) and downstream data (circuit, PDU and rack level) can operators have a full picture of the power flow at a DC facility—and be able to detect and prevent potentially critical downtime events before they occur. Traditional metering hardware and software solutions have not bridged this information gap—and some vendors do not even acknowledge that there is a need to address it. Both PQM and BCM level data are invaluable, but when they are only available in isolation the resulting knowledge gap leaves vulnerabilities in the power infrastructure.
The lack of integration and the limited features and capabilities of most currently available monitoring hardware and software systems results in significant impact for day-to-day and year-to-year DC operations—in lost efficiency, higher costs, unnecessary power usage, and unplanned downtime.
One factor that distinguishes MCM systems is that they gives DCs the ability to integrate not only upstream and downstream power utilization data, but to also incorporate additional analytics—such as harmonics, sag/swell, ITIC compliance and waveform analysis—that go beyond traditional metering approaches.
Advanced Multi-Circuit Monitoring Systems
What’s needed in the industry now is smarter metering hardware that can integrate with any legacy systems (using Serial or Ethernet communications), with easy-to-use software for comprehensive monitoring, tracking, and predictive analysis. An MCMS takes advantage of the last decade of technology advancements—such as smaller, faster processors and chip sets—to create sophisticated metering products that integrate monitoring and analysis capabilities. They can help DC operators not only track electrical activity but increase efficiency and prevent adverse events.
Essentially, an MCMS replaces multiple single-point meters with one sophisticated metering component. An MCMS comes with its own firmware that’s capable of connecting with a full range of DC systems and protocols, making it an affordable, “universal” meter that can be installed virtually anywhere—monitoring a UPS, PDU, switchgear, racks in the white space, etc. This adaptability enables an MCMS to capture power quality metrics at a granular level, while linking with other MCM components and legacy meters facility-wide for integrated tracking and analysis.
Benefits of MCMS
In developing MCMS, engineers set out to create a “calculation engine” that goes beyond off-the-shelf, pre-programmed chips. This innovation has allowed MCM systems to become much more cost effective than their predecessors, while offering a richer set of features and capabilities. By leveraging technology advancements, an MCMS offers high-end performance at an affordable price. Among their many advantages:
- MCMS systems are a “smart” solution, capable of simultaneously supporting various protocols (e.g. BACnet, SNMP, MODBUS, and REST), which enables easier integration into software systems without excessive costs of EGX / conversion devices.
- MCMS systems provide more functionality that traditional meters, which typically offer data on just Volts, Amps, and Watts. Now, a single MCMS meter can provide that data plus metrics that previously had only been available by installing multiple high-cost, single-point meters. The MCMS standard adds harmonics, sag/swell, waveform capture, and even measures the presence of voltage at the circuit level.
- A user-friendly interface (built in HTML) for easy set up and customization. Installing MCMS doesn’t require a service technician or vendor software support to configure the system for the specifics needs of any facility. The user interface makes it quick and easy to get the metering installed and the system up and running, for fast start-up and commissioning. It is also easy to make changes when required (e.g., to swap out breakers).
- No overhead software or middleware is required, MCMS uses native Ethernet and all protocols. The system can connect easily with any component that uses standard protocols.
- MCMS hardware is “future-proof”—it can be designed with future operating requirements in mind. The systems are modular and scalable to easily accommodate evolving industry standards. For example, the MCMS uses a single IP address, which can be used for more than just metering. Data from IO modules, breakers, temperature, and humidity sensors can be consolidated. No separate software system is required to monitor key metrics for PQM, BCM, temp/humidity, and other auxiliary contacts.
- An MCMS has higher polling rates and larger data storage capacity, which enables key data to be captured for later analysis.
One factor that distinguishes MCM systems is that they gives DCs the ability to integrate not only upstream and downstream power utilization data, but to also incorporate additional analytics—such as harmonics, sag/swell, ITIC compliance and waveform analysis—that go beyond traditional metering approaches. An Advanced MCMS approach makes use of the capabilities already built in to MCMS meters and then overlays sophisticated software and analytics on top to provide a robust view of the entire electrical landscape of a data center.
Marc Bowman is the Multi-Circuit Metering Systems (MCMS) Product General Manager for Anord Mardix.
To learn more about MCMS, read the White Paper: Optimizing Data Center Power Monitoring Systems with Advanced Multi-Circuit Monitoring Systems.