Eaton UPS Review

Using health checks, we are immediately notified if anything is happening

What is our primary use case?

It services two data centers and critical infrastructure computing devices.

How has it helped my organization?

In the wintertime, we're subject to a lot of pretty severe weather conditions. We have our UPS system with its battery backup, plus we also have a generator. When you're constantly going to get brownouts and all-out power failures, where the city generator and our building generator may have to kick on, in front of all that equipment is our data center with its networks, servers, routers, switches, firewalls, information security, and data. Every time there is a power hiccup, this puts that equipment at significant risk. Having the Eaton system in place really tempers that whole environment and disruptive nature of trying to provide clean power. It delivers to all that equipment good clean power to protect and provide the service. 

There can be some type of power disruption about once a month, 12 times a year. If we did not have the Eaton system in place, we may not lose everything. But every time there's a power hiccup, we might lose some piece of equipment that won't come up properly. At the very least, when those systems would go down, people will not be able to access services. Then, our technical folks will have to come in and try to get systems to come back up gracefully. The Eaton system minimizes the exposure and risk of all those power outages. Without the Eaton system, if you looked at the customer impact, it would be huge because we have 1,000 or more people accessing those services which would be at least temporarily offline until we got them back up and running. 

What is most valuable?

The online system monitoring is its most valuable feature. The feature set is understanding that if there are any issues, then we get notified instantly throughout the system. So, the system health check notification is really important to us.

For identifying issues, the vendor’s remote monitoring is excellent. That's one of the things that's really nice about this system is we are constantly getting health checks and health alerts. If anything happens, we immediately get notified. That's really good to know because it's such a critical piece of the infrastructure that you want to know when something's not quite right. You don't want to wait until there's a catastrophic failure and you've lost your data center. 

As far as future planning, it helps us in two ways:

  1. We can monitor the usage thresholds. If we see that we need to consider expanding capacity for our capacity planning, then we can understand if we will need to do an upgrade.
  2. If we see something that is constantly problematic, we may say, "Okay, it's not necessarily a piece of hardware failure, but there is a root cause here that we need to think about a different solution or expanding again back to that expanding point." It helps us make decisions should we see chronic issues coming up that need to be addressed with different hardware.

The remote monitoring makes our job easier. The UPS system is in an isolated room, so we would not know if there is a small issue without going in and physically laying eyes on it, since we never really see it. It just runs in there. We have temperature alarms, water alarms, system alarms, and system monitoring. From an ease of use, it's out of sight, out of mind, and we just get our updates. It also increases productivity since we don't have to spend time going in and manually checking the system and its health. That time can be spent doing other things. From a productivity standpoint, if you have to wait until the system is in a catastrophic failure, there would be a significant outage to the data center. This would then severely disrupt and hamper the productivity of the customers who are consuming the data center services.

What needs improvement?

One issue is we have a sort of U-shaped configuration. That does become a problem where you have hot and cold aisles. Therefore, you potentially could have hot air blowing out the back of one and into the intake of another system. That's always an issue. However, it's not an issue for us because we have all those batteries in a separate, safe environment. We don't need to have them in our data center.

The industry is going to a smaller footprint, but that does come at a cost, specifically for battery reserve time, size and density of the system, and BTU generation. Those three areas contribute to the heat generation factor. I think that they've done a really good job. But, when you look across our infrastructure, it's the UPS system that takes up the most space of any of our products. 

For how long have I used the solution?

About 10 years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It is very stable. It's what I would expect. We have had hardware issues, but they're not chronic. When there is a problem, it always gets resolved. It is a very stable system but it is also a sacrificial lamb. It's taking a lot of heat from commercial power and absorbing it. There are failures but they are absolutely on par with what you expect.

The solution’s ability to be upgraded online, without bringing our production environment down, is really good. I've been surprised. We have had several upgrade hardware replacements and have not had to take the system down. I would rate the redundancy very good that we have built-in for power modules and batteries. We have been able to do quite a few updates without taking our system offline. The built-in redundancy is very good and has helped us save from having to shut our systems down while we upgrade online.

When upgrading, we are able to increase the power capacity of the existing hardware. You can add up to 20 percent capacity instead of replacing the system. To be able to incrementally add capacity as you need it, this means that you don't have to buy more than you need. They give you incremental steps to add capacity where you need it. 

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The scalability is good. One of the issues that you always run into with these systems is they have to be scalable because the last thing you want to do is buy all this infrastructure then need a little more capacity, because then you have to forklift out what you have and put in the new. That doesn't work. Therefore, scalability is really important and this system allows us to incrementally add capacity as needed.

We have utilized the building-block nature of the solution as we have grown. We can add modules, which helps from a cost standpoint and protects the initial capital investment in the system, rather than having to completely replace the system. We can start small scale and incrementally fund additional capacity as needed rather than purchasing a system, having to pull it out, and buying a brand new one.

We use Eaton extensively. We're using it for all of our critical infrastructures. From a sizing standpoint, we use it for four buildings and two data centers.

We have about five staff personnel and a portion of their responsibilities is to maintain these systems. They have three different roles in the company:

  1. Data center managers who are responsible for the uptime and service delivery of all the equipment that is connected to the UPS. They monitor the health of the system on a day-to-day basis, hour by hour. They are watching that every day, monitoring the system. 
  2. Building management: Part of their health check every day, they do a physical walk-through of all of the HVAC systems. In the case of the UPS systems, they go in and just open up the doors to make sure everything is looking right. Also, that stuff doesn't sound funny.  
  3. We have electrical staff onboard and onsite. If there are electrical issues, they will come in and address those.

How are customer service and technical support?

The onsite service's response time is very good for our location. If there are any issues, they instantly call, then we get a ticket in and have a technician on standby. As soon as the parts have arrived, they come onsite. They fix the issue 100 percent of the time on the first visit. We're able to do enough diagnostics beforehand so we have the right part. I don't think we've ever run into a situation where they've shown up and had to come back again. They come prepared, the folks are knowledgeable, and the work always gets done.

They really set the gold standard for support. I wish some of our other vendors operated like this well. There are other vendors who do very well, but Eaton's always on the top. I wouldn't even question using their product and having their support agreements in place. They are outstanding.

I would recommend the support contract because they really make good on that. You can choose to just go as needed, but when the system fails or there's a problem, you want to pick up the phone and be the number one priority. By having a maintenance contract, you will get an instant response.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

Before Eaton, we used a number of different solutions, like Tripplite and APC.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was straightforward from the standpoint that they did a great job coordinating and installing it. However, from the customer perspective, the initial setup was complex. It was just very straightforward and easy to work with the Eaton team.

Our deployment took about a week. We needed to:

  1. Do capacity planning. 
  2. Have an electrical infrastructure put in place. 
  3. Have the environmentals, the safe room, for the batteries to be in the AC.
  4. Schedule the outage.

There is a lot of detail with:

  • Setting up.
  • Configuring.
  • Building.
  • Testing the system.
  • Migration to the new system.
  • The operation of it.

In summary, we have to test the system, migrate to the new system, and then have day two support.

What about the implementation team?

We had onsite installation from Eaton, who was excellent. I would give them 10 out of 10 for their commitment to service, customer contact, immediate responses, scheduling resources, and having knowledgeable people. They make sure everything is ready for the installation, during the installation, the updates, and through the follow-up. Eaton's support, pre-sales, sales, implementation, and post support are really good. The implementation was excellent and the day two support was good as well.

We needed to have an electrician onsite during the initial deployment.

When you're implementing it, make sure you:

  1. Do your capacity planning. You want to buy the right system for the right need. You certainly don't want to have a system smaller than you need.
  2. Have a good vendor who is knowledgeable in configuring, setting up, and implementing these systems.
  3. Have a good electrical contractor who can make sure that all the power to the UPS system, then out of your UPS system to your data centers and whatever it's protecting, is clean and wired correctly. You want a good electrical contractor for this. 
  4. Address your AC and cooling needs for where the system is placed.

What was our ROI?

We have seen return on investment with system uptime. 

We are avoiding network infrastructure hardware failures due to dirty power coming into the systems. We are buying insurance and assurance by keeping the system up. The assurance side is for uptime, then insurance is to avoid hardware capital system failures which require complete replacement of hardware.

We could have 12 incidents a year where they are disruptive (at the very least) with one a year being catastrophic. Those incidents are eliminated by having the Eaton system in place.

The solution saves us about 20 percent in rack space.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

It is an expensive technology. The maintenance is expensive. The batteries are expensive. Replacing those batteries is expensive as a capital cost. You have to plan for it every four to five years, but it's the cost of doing business. The cost of not having a good reliable system in place is even higher when you have catastrophic failures. I would recommend the product, but you do have to be prepared to spend some money, both on the product as well as all the environmental preparations for powering the system and cooling system.

We use their service plan, which includes parts so we don't do the maintenance on it ourselves. We have a service plan that we use, then they do all the maintenance and periodical maintenance (PM) work. If there are any hardware failures, then they also do the work. Therefore, it's a hardware/software support contract that includes labor.

For our used case, 12kW is good. It has worked very well for us. They can be a lot bigger and they can be smaller, but the 12kW seems to be just about right for us. It has a good price point.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Eaton's power density is very competitive and very much right where they should be, especially compared with competitive, modular solutions.

You want to try and find a company who can provide support, is comfortable, and understands the product line. Product, familiarity with local contractors, and reputation of the product tends to be the driving force behind the different systems out there, because electrical contractors may have several options that they can go with.

You need to have electrical contractors who are familiar with a system. You could have a great system, but if you don't have a local provider who can help with the installation along with a good vendor, then you have a problem. On the other hand, you can have a marginal system, but if you have good support, then that works. Reputation, supportability, and reliability are the most important things.

What other advice do I have?

The company is reliable and excellent to work with. I would recommend Eaton. If we have any other projects, it would not even be a question whether we would go with Eaton.

The solution’s footprint is very good, but the solution’s power density in relation to its footprint is satisfactory/acceptable. There is always a trade-off when you're trying to add more power to size. Then, there's the cost:

  • If it's the batteries, and you're using typical gel cell types, those are larger. If you use a higher density battery type, the cost goes up. 
  • With the transformers and electronics in it, if you try to make them really small, the cost is going to go way up. Smaller is always better, but you can only go so small with it. 

It's always given that you're going to need at least one or two racks dedicated to power. When everything else is shrinking in size, we can get so much data storage, computers, and networking equipment into such a small space. The UPS system remains probably a large part of our footprint. I wouldn't penalize the company for that. I would just say it's somewhat a reality of the technology with the transformers and batteries. Eaton is right there in the middle of any systems that we spec out or handle.

If there's a neutral setting in there, it's rack-mountable. I would say this feature is convenient.

I would rate this product a 10 (out of 10).

**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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