I’ve seen some pretty creative locations for racks and computer rooms in my lifetime. Janitor’s closets? All the time. Back of the computer lab buried under a bunch of boxed copies of Microsoft Office? Yes indeed. I even once had to configure a Novell BorderManager server that was located in a girl’s restroom in a library. And I had to stop at one point to let someone use the facilities. IT people are very good at making sure that we can put equipment anywhere we can fit it.
However, there is one constraint that we always have to adhere to. No matter how creative our location skills might be, we still have to have some sort of power to run the racks. If your equipment doesn’t have a reliable source of juice, you’re pretty much stuck. The packets can’t flow if the power isn’t flowing too. That means you have to locate your racks close to a power outlet. That’s great for traditional infrastructure deployments in buildings. But what if your rack needs to be somewhere more remote? What if you need to provide connectivity to something located on a roadside or in the middle of nowhere? To illustrate my point, here’s a clip from Back to the Future II that sums it up in one line.
I know what you’re probably thinking, “just run an extension cord,” or something to that effect. Great in theory, impossible in practice. First, where are you going to find an outlet in the wilderness? Secondly, how can you be certain that someone isn’t going to run over or cut your extension cord? Even if you bury it, you have to do it within specification to meet code requirements. And burying power cables to remote locations can get very expensive very fast.
During the recent Mobility Field Day 5 event, there was a great presentation from the folks at Ventev. You may have heard the name before in relation to antennas for wireless access points. But there’s more to Ventev than dipoles and yagis. A lot more. Jim Baker stepped up to the plate to tell us all about their power solutions. Here’s the video of that presentation:
The highlight of the session was the UPS enclosure system they built for the Cisco IE3200 rugged switch. These devices are starting to see deployment in challenging environments. Such as deserts and remote wiring closets. Like the middle of nowhere, where there just happens to be a relay station or a monitoring camera or something that needs power and connectivity.
The process of building the solution out starts before a device is ever purchased. Ventev works with you to figure out your requirements. What are you trying to accomplish with this remote UPS? Are you wanting 24-hour power? Or do you just need enough battery backup to send an alert that the system has lost power? Does it need to stay up for an hour until a technician can arrive to fix things? And where is it located? Is it stuck to the side of a remote building on a football field? Or is it in a marine environment on the side of a lighthouse? What are the temperature extremes that it has to go through? All of these questions are important for the proper operation of the solution.
Going back to the Cisco IE3200 solution above, in the video, Jim talks about how the environmental decisions helped Ventev plan out the power budget for the device and how much battery capacity is needed to operate for half an hour before powering down. Sizing the solution appropriately means it can get the power it needs to operate as needed. And with the expertise of Ventev, you can even get creative and introduce more robust backup and charging options, such as a solar panel.
Another great discussion was around using light poles like those found in parking lots for powering devices. I had always assumed that those lights have power all the time and just ran off a timer. But Jim illustrated in his presentation that some of those lights are on a power timer as well. Ventev can design a power solution to complement those poles during the off-hours to allow things like location services or security cameras to operate during the day and then run from the pole power at night while the pole recharges the batteries in the Ventev solution. It’s a useful way to extend the capabilities of your deployed devices.
Bringing It All Together
Power has always been the bane of my existence. I never can get things exactly where I want them because I’m always just a few inches short with my power cord. Trying to deploy networking devices to remote locations makes the power challenge even harder. Thankfully, Jim Baker and the wizards at Ventev are up for any challenge and can help you out with whatever your mad scientist brain can cook up.
For more information about Ventev and all of their antenna and power solutions, make sure you visit their website at http://Ventev.com