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Battery Monitoring – A thing of the past?

 Are the days of battery monitoring numbered?

Canara has been monitoring the health of critical batteries for major co-location and enterprise data center clients around the world for over 25 years.

With some global companies having battery assets worth upwards of many tens of millions of dollars, Canara has always strived to allow its clients to get the absolute maximum from this major asset by leading with new technologies and constantly improving its monitoring and reporting service as well as its asset analytics.

With this continuing focus, Canara has now taken its established monitoring technology and moved to the next technological step of turning “battery monitoring” into “battery management”.

By developing its patent pending “Active Capacity Balancing” (ACB) Canara is using new technology to control, maintain and manage the environment of each individual unit within a string of batteries. For the first time since the development of the lead acid battery, each individual unit within a string of batteries can have its environment closely monitored and controlled, much closer to, if not precisely to, the battery manufacturer’s specification.

Shows the basic principle of Active Capacity Balancing

Since batteries were first put together in a string, the established technique has been to add up the recommended charge voltage per cell by the number of cells and set the battery charger or rectifier accordingly. In an ideal world each cell or jar is then charged at the correct voltage. In the real world however, what happens is some cells charge at a higher voltage, consequently others must charge at a lower voltage due to the constant voltage nature of the charger. In the past, nothing could be done about this discrepancy and it has been the accepted norm. Overcharging a unit by just 0.6 of a volt can shorten the life by up to 60%. ACB now holds that unit to the correct float voltage for its corresponding temperature.

“Overcharging a lead acid unit by just 0.6 of a volt can shorten the life by up to 60%”

Temperature is a major factor in determining battery longevity. It is well established that every 17° F over 77° F (10° C over 20° C) will halve the life of that very expensive asset. It therefore stands to reason that Canara is very conscious that clients keep their batteries as cool as possible while not over cooling and incurring extra cooling expenses.

“Every 10° C rise over 20° C halves the remaining life of a lead acid battery”

Using its already established technology, Canara battery monitoring technicians, having the benefit of being able to see individual unit temperatures, have noticed that the temperature of each unit within a battery string may vary by some 20° F or even more. This means that even with temperature compensated charging, hotter units within a string are getting overcharged while the relatively cooler batteries in the string are not being charged sufficiently.

With ACB, the ability to control the corresponding float voltage depending on temperature (taken from the negative terminal) mitigates both of these major threats to longevity of battery life.

Shows the typical correlation between temperature and recommended float voltage

A further accepted rule within battery circles is that in older battery strings a new replacement jar will age rapidly and quickly catch up to the age and performance of the other jars in the old string. With this limitation, it is normally recommended that a maximum of between 10% and 20% of jars be replaced before the entire sting is taken out and replaced with a complete new one. ACB now controls and prevents this overcharging allowing more replacement units to be installed and further extending the useful life of the entire battery asset.

Thermal runaway is an ever increasing problem for battery owners and operators. As space becomes tighter and cooling becomes more expensive, the environment which encourages the exothermic reaction known as thermal runaway becomes ever more prominent. It is now well known as a major cause of fires within data centers and since 2009 the International Fire Code has ordained that any VRLA battery containing more than 50 gallons of electrolyte must have a method of detecting and preventing thermal runaway.

IFC608.3 states that anyone with VRLA batteries with over 50 gallons of electrolyte must have a means of detecting and preventing thermal runaway.

ACB devices sense the temperature of every negative terminal so trends indicating this phenomenon are detected very early on and additionally the system manages the situation to bypass current which would normally continue to overheat the problem jar.

An added benefit of having each battery being held to its recommend float voltage according to its temperature is that the jars that would normally have to dissipate more heat no longer have to do so and tests in the field indicate that in some cases the average string temperature of a string with ACB can fall by 1°F to 2°F.

All the benefits of having individual temperature compensated float voltage control quickly come together. It is Canara’s belief that battery life will be extended and that users will be able to run their battery installations more safely, and over longer timeframes using Active Capacity Balancing.

Shows Active Capacity Balancing under lab conditions

Shows Active Capacity Balancing working in the field. Stratification of temperatures is typical within a cabinet of batteries. Note how ACB varies with those temperatures.

Coupled with Canara’s remote monitoring service, the added benefit of its’ automated ACB feature means that batteries are being tended to maximize their performance and lifespan as well as being monitored by experts.

Why just monitor batteries when for almost the same cost the batteries can be managed?

So, is simple battery monitoring a thing of the past?

If you want to learn more about Voltage Balancing, please download our latest White Paper – Extend Battery Life Through Float Voltage Control.

What Data Centers Can Learn From Rolls Royce

As I continue to reflect on the talk I gave on What Datacenter Operators Can Learn From Rolls Royce (included at the end of this post) at Datacenter Dynamics New York, I realize that the timing of the topic was interesting based on the continued search for Malaysian Airlines MH370 where it was Rolls Royce who announced 3 days after my presentation that MH370 was flying for hours after it disappeared from radar as they were monitoring MH370’s jet engines during flight.

The main premise of the presentation is that airlines long ago realized they could greatly benefit from working with Rolls Royce to monitor real time the state of health and key performance data of their jet engines in their aircraft to improve safety and reliability. By working with their trusted advisor and partner, the airline industry migrated to conditions-based maintenance from time-based maintenance which also extends the lifecycle of those jet engines. Datacenter operators can do the same thing! Like jet engines being one of the key vulnerable components of an aircraft, the power continuity infrastructure of datacenters (UPS Systems, Battery Systems, Power Distribution Equipment, Switchgear, Generators) is the most vulnerable part of the datacenter per ongoing studies from The Ponemon Institute.

Many of the leading operators like Equinix, CenturyLink, Computer Sciences Corporation, RagingWire, Digital Realty Trust, Cologix, ViaWest, Charles Schwab already are working with Canara just like the airlines work with Rolls Royce to eliminate risk and save money while doing it. Canara’s formula for our success with these operators is nearly identical to the Rolls Royce process:

Sense – Canara deploys many sensors in the power infrastructure of the datacenter to gather key information about each unit of power backup (battery) or power distribution (circuit). This can include things like the voltage, ohmic, AC ripple on DC systems, temperatures, current measurements of circuits and other key measurements.

Acquire – All of that real-time “big data” has to be consolidated to a central location in order to make it useful. This includes acquiring data from non-Canara made equipment.

Transfer – Canara transfers the data to our Monitoring Operations Center like Rolls Royce transfers jet engine performance data to their Bristol, England Monitoring Operations Center.

Analyze – Canara’s time proven and powerful cloud based analytics engine takes all that big data and runs ever improving heuristic algorithms and prognostic algorithms based on 20 years of data analysis in this area (over 2 billion data points) and automatically flags anomolies to investigate. These flagged anomalies are then analyzed by real people who are experts in their area to then render a recommendation of whether to ignore, continue to trend or Act. And because we are doing this every day, these actions tend to be conditions based maintenance oriented to pre-empt a real problem before it actually occurs as opposed to an urgent alarm state.

Act – When the recommendation is to act, Rolls Royce has the maintenance crew at the ready before the plane even lands with the specific plan of action already created. In the datacenter world, Canara’s time sensitive and recommendations include replacing a battery or entire battery string on a UPS or Generator or DC Plant, replacing a UPS capacitor, adjusting buss voltage, adjusting temperatures, adding circuits for a customer, investigating a hot spot in power distribution equipment and many others.

The parallels of jet engine management to datacenter power infrastructure management are really interesting the deeper you get into it. I plan on doing a Part 2 of What Data Centers Can Learn From Rolls Royce in the coming months to further explore the parallels. I hope you enjoy part 1…

Telecom, Battery Monitoring and Asset Management

Canara with TVH at Mobile World Congress, Barcelona. More and more telecom and mobile providers are realising the benefit of 24 x 7 monitoring and asset management. Being able to connect their cell sites and view their battery data globally is a huge bonus. As companies centralize their operations facility and move skillset into one location it becomes critical to ensure maximum uptime and reliability of remote sites. A lot of interest has been generated from MWC and we look forward to welcoming our new customers to the Canara Cloud.

From left to right; Didier Bougarel (Consultant TVH), Marian Comsa (CEO, Petru Construction), Lode Bart (Technical Sales, TVH)

Decoding Data Center TCO

When I was first introduced to Romonet at an Uptime Institute Symposium last year I thought there could be good synergy between our critical power systems analytics and their data center TCO (total cost of ownership) analytics, primarily surrounding extending battery life and replacing frequency based equipment maintenance programs with predictive or condition based maintenance programs. What I wasn’t expecting was the depth of the solutions our partnership can deliver to our data center clients.

Canara Romonet Data Center TCOI use the word “depth” and not “multitude” for a reason. While a combined service offering will no doubt increase the number of services provided under one contract, Romonet and Canara services complement one another creating enhanced service offerings that neither party could deliver alone. It’s why the partnership makes so much sense.

Having spent the past 13 years operating data centers, I am intrigued by the tools and information Romonet places at their client’s fingertips that can be leveraged from data center conception to end-of-life. The magic lies in their infrastructure modeling application. Within days, if not hours, the most complex of systems designs can be modeled within their software, giving light to what can be expected from a TCO perspective the day the site is turned on.

Design Validation

Canara Data Center Model using Romonet EngineerThis can provide great value even before the site is turned on. Take site selection for example. If you want to know what the optimal design is for a given region, simply modify the model to provide a side-by-side comparison for as many design options as you like. It’s quick and easy to do. Likewise, in a similar manner, they make what-if analysis a snap.


Romonet modeling can also be applied to commissioning. If you know how a site is expected to perform, it only makes sense to compare those values to actual performance values during the commissioning phases. Costly system anomalies that may otherwise be accepted as the “norm” can be corrected day-one. The Romonet model easily breaks “expected performance” down by component allowing you to identify where the anomalies lie, making it a powerful troubleshooting aid.


Canara Understanding Data Center PUESo what happens after the data center is handed over to the operators and the engineers and commissioning agents have left the building? How do you know if a data center is operating efficiently on a day-to-day basis? A standard benchmark is Power Utilization Effectiveness (PUE), however, we all know that comparing one site’s PUE to another’s is comparing apples to oranges. The method I used when I managed data centers was to calculate the design PUE as a target to aim at, and then track the actual PUE hoping for progressive improvements toward that target. What I lacked was a near real-time, season-to-season, hour-by-hour benchmark to compare “actual vs. expected” performance. And, to have the means to analyze any variances down to the component level so I could flush out the root cause and correct it. That’s what Romonet can do.

Investing Capital

Now you have your data center dialed in and you have identified a long list of improvements that you want to implement that will improve your operations and “make it run more efficiently”. You’ve calculated the ROI based on component efficiency gains, but how will that impact your TCO? Are you sure there won’t be a negative trade-off with another system within your infrastructure? A better question may be, “how are you going to present proof of your cost savings to Finance”? Don’t forget this is a year-over-year endeavor and you have many other irons in the fire. Romonet not only provides a means of presenting an accurate business case for capital investments but also provides a means to track and present their progress to the stakeholders.

Allocating Costs

Canara Data Center Cost AllocationAs long as we are talking about Finance, I don’t want to leave out billing. As the industry moves toward a cost-based structure, data center operators will want to see cost breakdowns for clients, business units, applications, on down to infrastructure components themselves. Romonet modeling can track and report on cost contributors from the component level to the data floor, providing a true cost analysis that encompasses the entire infrastructure. Combine that with branch circuit monitoring data and accurate billing for usage and tracking margin per client, and/or business unit, becomes achievable.

What initially appeared to be “good” synergy turned out to be “great” synergy. Wish I had met them years ago.

Branch Circuit Monitoring installed in 45 minutes

We are pleased to say our first installation of Canara Branch Circuit Monitoring Subscription Solution outside North America at Virtustream in London went off without a hitch.

With a modular-based design combined with standard Cat5e cabling, the hardware was able to be completely installed in less than 45 minutes. The first side of the panel took only 15 minutes while the other side was completed in under 10 minutes.

One of the challenges when installing CTs (Current Transducers that measure each circuit’s status) is to ensure that they are mapped to the right breaker and corresponding customer. This is an often difficult and sometimes tedious task that was eliminated with Canara Branch Circuit monitoring’s unique auto-identification feature that performed this accurately in under 5 minutes.

Alan Pearson, Director of Datacentres, EMEA at Virtustream and shown in the picture below on the right, was pleased how easy the entire system was to install, configure and view the system data online in real time. With a little help from Marcos Almonaci, who is on the left, Alan was able to use Canara Connect to set all the circuit owners and verify our readings using his live PDU outputs (turns out that ours was much more accurate). The product worked first time!

It’s great when a product install goes well and we have happy customers. Alan went on to say “I want to say what a fantastic product this is, I’d like to do all the panels on both my sites as soon as possible please!” He added, “I’m prepared to talk to any prospective customers and show them how much money I’ve saved by putting in Canara’s BCM Solution”.

Thanks Alan.

Liam Bounds the electrician that performed the installation was impressed with the ease of installation and added “I’m going to tell my other customers about this – I can see immediate benefits!”

Thank Liam, we appreciate it.


London, Branch Circuit Monitoring, Subscription and Romonet

Day 1 of DCD London was quite bustling with traffic and activity. The general buzz level feels stronger yet than last year. Canara made two announcements today. The first is general Availability of our Branch Circuit Monitoring subscription package which includes hardware, on site software, warranty, monitoring services and no contract term. The second is our partnership with Romonet to deliver the suite of Romonet data center modeling software and enhanced portal supported by Canara’s Monitoring Operations Center.

We have a lot of existing customers here as well as our growing partners. Pictured below is David Griggs (CSC), Ryan Joy & David Joshua (Canara), Mark Cresswell (U.K. Partner Adept Power Solutions) and Ad Smulders (Netherlands partner First Case).

We are celebrating our announcements, customer wins and accomplishments, new partners tonight at an event co-sponsored by Norland (I mean CBRE).

Day 2 should offer more fun as we are presenting Canara at the Technology Showcase and drinking lots of water!

Welcome to Advanced Battery Care

We are pleased to welcome Advanced Battery Care as a reseller of our battery monitoring systems in partnership with our UK Partner Adept Power Solutions.  You can read more about Advanced Battery Care and how they provide battery management and maintenance services to a wide variety of industries along with the recent announcement.

DCD Singapore

I was told that the DatacenterDynamics Singapore event was the 3rd largest DCD event held globally this year and based on the buzz of enthusiasm at the event, the communal feeling and excitement in the market, and the fact that most MTDC’s and enterprise customers are talking about solid growth and expansion in APAC into 2014 I tend to agree. All signs point clearly to the fact that Singapore as the gateway to the APAC data center market. With its stable economic and political environment, it’s lack of natural disasters (protected by Borneo on one side and Malaysia to the other) and its solid financial capital, it is no wonder that several of the large players in our market appear to be aggressively expanding into the area.

With over 800 participants at the event, my colleague Jason Sun, Vice President of Sales, APAC and I were excited to staff our booth along side our local Singapore partner Adrian Tan, owner of Eng Hoe Pte, LTD. We unveiled a some new features in our Canara Battery Monitoring solution, including Real Time Alarming, Active Capacity Balancing and Improved Asset Management/Aging String Analysis. We also chose this location for the soft release of our NEW Canara Branch Circuit Monitoring which generated a lot of buzz and interest-especially with its subscription pricing model. We were boosted by the fact that several prospects were inclined to return to our booth, learn more and discuss options for how they would deploy.

Next stop for us will be DCD London – very much looking forward to that show.

We want YOU on the Canara Movember Team

It’s “Movember” 1st in just a couple of days. What’s that you ask? Movember is an annual, month-long event involving the growing of moustaches during the month of November to raise awareness of prostate cancer and other male cancer and associated charities. The Movember Foundation runs the Movember charity event, housed at Last year, the US Movember campaign alone raise $21M and right now, worldwide donations for Movember ’13 is at about $3.7M. We think we can get on the U.S. Team Leaderboard pretty quickly

Shad was the first known Canara Movember guy and did a fine job last year growing his Mo (as pictured below) and raising some Dough.

To step it up a notch, we’ve decided to put together an official Canara & Friends Movember Team. We want to build our Canara & Friends Team to be as large and wide reaching as possible – that includes family, friends, business associates, dogs, frogs, whomever). For those of you able to grow a Mo or if you know someone who is interested in growing a Mo, please enlist or forward to them to enlist and join our team now in 3 easy steps:

1. Go to
2. Click on Sign Up in the upper right corner
3. Click on Join A Team, type Canara in the seach field and click submit, then when you see our Mascot… and click Join and follow instructions from there

Once you join us, you can then help the cause by growing and showing your inspiring Mo, tweeting, posting updates on LinkedIn, Facebook, send emails, make calls, connect two cans and a string for the low tech folks, whatever it takes to get the word out to GET DONATIONS and GET MO TEAM MEMBERS. I think we can build quite a formidable team and collectively and individually be pretty proud of what we “grow” this month for a great cause. As an added internal incentive – we’ll have a company-wide vote at the end of the month for the top “Canara MO” and top “Canara Friend Mo” and honor them both at our annual holiday party.

A moustache is the mark of a man, and today it is a symbol to spark conversations about important health issues. So guys, pledge to grow a Mo today, or ladies, join the team to support our Mo efforts.

Find out more about why you should join us by taking a look at the causes we are fighting for:

Thanks for supporting Gen Mo and helping Canara & Friends help change the face of men’s health.

United We Mo!

Shad & Steve

Don’t forget your “thermals”

Temperature is such an easy thing to measure you’d wonder why we don’t measure it more often and in more places. Battery monitoring is no exception to this and even today there are few systems that take advantage of this easy-to-measure yet very informative parameter.

Canara’s own system has always measured every jar temperature and, in monitoring hundreds of thousands of batteries worldwide, it really is surprising the range of problems that we regularly detect and warn of because of this data.  Here are a few examples…

Cooling Equipment Failure
The first and most obvious of these of course is the failure of cooling equipment. It may be through chiller failure, fan or other mechanism, but whatever it is it inevitably results in a rise in temperature of the batteries and, in some cases, can even cause a thermal runaway event if not addressed quickly enough. You can see from the chart below that the temperature rises 20 degrees in about 24 hours!

Temperature Stratification
The ability to monitor individual jar temperature has also taught us another thing that you may not realize – there can be a very wide variation in temperatures of batteries even within a single cabinet. The stratification of temperatures across a string can be quite striking and well beyond what you might at first imagine. Strings of wet cells in large battery rooms on racks have shown spreads of over 10 degrees F while batteries within cabinets can display a huge spread of over 20 degrees F!

Knowing this, it stands to reason that if you have some areas of your battery cabinet at 77 degrees F that it is quite possible that you could have other areas at 97 degrees F and therefore most definitely in the thermal runaway danger zone.

Without individual jar temperature, this, unnoticed spread of temperatures, means that a cabinet of batteries can be vulnerable to thermal runaway without you ever realizing it.

Thermal Runaway
For us the forewarning of thermal runaway is the singular most urgent of conditions we must act on, and warn of, and we see batteries in the thermal runaway zone all the time.

The chart below shows a recent real-world incident where a customer did not take action when notified of likely thermal runaway condition. The batteries were virtually new but the combination of high float voltage and warm temperatures meant thermal runaway conditions were likely. From our Monitoring Operations Center, we were able to notify the customer of the impending event 10 days prior to the actual event taking place.

Discharge Event
Discharge is another occasion where measuring temperature can be a useful indicator. While there are few systems that measure temperature when the batteries are discharging, a discharging battery can generate large amounts of heat and looking at this heat signature can give us early signs of a change in battery condition or a change in connector conductance.

So what does all this mean?

Without individual jar temperature monitoring, you are not able to ensure that your batteries are not on the edge of thermal runaway. The majority of battery monitors do not have the capability to detect individual jar temperature and any other symptoms that can only be seen by skilled personnel paying close attention to these subtle indicators and act quickly upon them.

At Canara, we are actively monitoring close to 300,000 batteries worldwide every day and are regularly reminded that, as well as all the other parameters, individual jar temperature is a highly critical factor in keeping batteries healthy and your critical power flowing.