The Top Tier Product Awards are back for a second year to showcase the best products available to the mission critical industry. What exactly defines the best though? Different people will have different answers, but Mission Critical’s panel of judges used a combination of factors, including safety, efficiency, scalability, reliability, size, and a few others, to determine the winners of each category. Read on to learn more about the Top Tier Products available in batteries, cabinets, cables/cable management systems, IT equipment, power systems and products, racks, security systems, software, thermal management solutions, and UPS systems.
Hoppecke chose the color green for its grid | Xtreme VR batteries to symbolize their sustainable nature. These high-performance pure lead (HPPL) industrial batteries offer an innovative energy solution for stabilizing power grids in data centers, hospitals, and power plants.
“A steadily growing share of renewable energies and the resulting fluctuating energy sources show that we will have to reckon with strongly fluctuating power grid quality (not only in Europe) in the future,” said Thomas Selzer, sales manager for central Europe at Hoppecke.
The Xtreme VR meets the challenges of urbanization, energy transition, digitization, and electromobility.
“The decisive factor for the high energy and power density of the Hoppecke grid | Xtreme VR is the use of pure lead as electrode material, which has superior corrosion properties compared to all known lead alloys,” said Selzer. “The result is that it requires a comparatively small space, which has a positive effect on investment costs.”
The significance of this is reflected in the scoring.
“Hoppecke appears to have a long-standing presence in Europe and has found some design changes which may place them at an advantage in the market,” one of the judges said. “Investment in research and development is critical to remain competitive in the battery market, and it appears Hoppecke has done their homework.”
Optional metal reinforcements ensure increased dimensional stability over the entire battery life and at elevated ambient temperatures.
“This allows installation in cabinets or on racks with limited need for continuous and costly air conditioning,” said Selzer.
When restoring the operational and functional capability of the UPS system after a discharge, the batteries also benefit from their fast-charging capability, which allows higher charging currents with the given infrastructure. Furthermore, separate contact points on the battery poles help to determine the status quickly and easily by means of impedance measurement — even when installed.
Business drivers, such as AI, the IoT, autonomous driving, 5G, advanced health care systems, and even retail services, have seen more IT being placed in nontraditional locations, often where data center resources do not exist. As edge data demands grow and computing power increases, data center infrastructure needs to become more portable and easily deployable. The R- Series was conceived to meet these needs while prioritizing sustainability and availability.
“With the rapid deployment capabilities of the R- Series and the growing demand for edge infrastructure, users can now deploy data center resources in hours, with greater flexibility, at nearly any density, without concern for the surrounding environment,” said Gavin Miller, CSMO at DDC Cabinet Technology.
This rack-level enclosure features onboard closed-loop cooling, adaptive suspension, security, and fire suppression. The product line fully replicates the features of traditional, containerized, and cloud data centers and are manufactured to NEMA 4 specifications.
“The design team first analyzed traditional data center builds and reimagined how critical components could be altered and enhanced to increase efficiency and reliability,” Miller said. “Various business use cases were also researched and analyzed to ensure the product would meet the requirements and provide a stable environment for the mission critical equipment that would be housed inside. The result was a full product line that supports 12U to 42U of standard 19-inch rack IT equipment with IT loads up to 60 kW.”
The product line includes patented shock and vibration, which allows for the units to be shipped and redeployed with the IT equipment inside and also isolates the equipment from harsh environments, like deep shaft mines, oil and gas platforms, and manufacturing floors, to name a few.
“With integrated environmental control, biometric security, fire suppression, and monitoring, the cabinet is now the data center,” Miller said. “If that isn’t a major change for the mission critical industry, we don’t know what is.”
There's no bow on top, but the Jumper in a Box (JIAB) ECO is Corning’s latest gift to its customers, and it comes with a commitment to sustainability.
With most of the telecommunications industry using jumpers in some capacity, this product is used in both access networks and data center applications, ensuring headends, central offices, and hyperscalers have reliable connectivity while retaining the ability for simple moves, adds, and changes.
The JIAB ECO is truly a collaborative effort between experts at Corning and their end users — the perforated seam between jumper bags, easily recognizable product labels, and reorder notice are all suggestions from customers.
“We also received requests from multiple customers for a refillable JIAB — while they used the jumpers in a short period of time, they really liked how long-lasting the box itself was,” said Patrick Lambert, communication specialist for Corning. “When those conversations began to involve the sustainability branches of both our own company, as well as our customers', it became a simple decision to launch a more eco-friendly JIAB offering.”
In order to accomplish this, the company sourced recycled, durable materials for the box's construction, and the engineers engaged customers to figure out the simplest way to cut down on waste and speed up deployment.
“Often in this industry, especially in the last 30 years, there hasn't been time to consider sustainability,” Lambert said. “Given how hectic our business is, we can barely accommodate the rate of growth, let alone do so in a renewable fashion.”
JIAB ECO is Corning's answer to this conundrum.
Motor control centers (MCCs) are responsible for controlling all electric motors from a centralized switchboard. In data centers, the key function of motors is to operate the HVAC systems, which, in turn, control the ambient air temperature within the server rooms. This is critical, since the ambient operating temperature of the servers must be maintained at predetermined levels in order to avoid costly downtime.
That’s why the judges declared The Exertherm 24x7 MCC Electrical Monitoring Solution the winner of the Power Systems and Products category — because it’s the only permanently installed, “in bucket” thermal monitoring solution available. specifically designed ‘In Bucket’ permanently installed thermal monitoring solution.
Initial research on the product started in response to a customer request. The first step Exertherm took was to determine if there were widespread problems that existed.
“The spring clips which were used to attach the ‘power in’ connection from the Bucket to the vertical bus conductors were subject to deterioration over time, making the connection looser,” said Susan Planta, head of global marketing, Exertherm. “This introduced arcing, which ultimately led to failure and potential arc flash/fire/explosion/etc. This ‘fault’ was common across OEMs.”
The company then looked into the inspection methods that were normally employed to detect symptoms of failure — anything from excess heat leading to discoloration on cables. The finding revealed three methods.
1. Live — this poses serious safety risks to personnel and also remains largely ineffective due to the fact that buckets tend to have numerous components in a tight space, causing line-of-sight issues.
2. De-energized — this visual inspection is both ineffective and costly, as all systems must be shut down.
3. Thermal imaging — this method is totally ineffective, even if the bucket is removable, because the heat dissipates by the time it can be imaged.
Product concept research established a vendor-neutral “in bucket” solution would be best. After prototypes were produced, modified, and optimized they were beta tested in conjunction with global OEMs.
The result is The Exertherm 24x7 MCC Electrical Monitoring Solution. The MCC solution is provided in a simple and easy-to-fit kit per bucket, comprising of six thermal sensors in a pre-wired loom with a connector, datacard, and LED status light. The solution provides local and remote thermal and phase imbalance alarms. The non-powered sensors connect directly to the critical incoming/outgoing power connections, continuously monitoring temperature, while the datacard collects the sensor temperature data to activate alarms when a fault is detected. It can be connected in three ways: relay only (local status LED + local/remote dry contact alarms), connection to Exertherm HMI (1 + local status graphics + transfer of raw data), or connection to Exertherm MCC Aggregator (local status LED + local/remote alarms + transfer of raw data via Modbus 485).
“This product provides a unique solution to monitor thermal conditions of MCC buckets and gives the end user real time alarm information if there is an issue.”
According to one of the judges, that’s what put this product above the rest. But, the design considerations went beyond the monitoring capabilities to in order to prevent other causes of downtime too.
“MCCs control motors, which perform mission critical operations,” Planta said. “Cybersecurity is of paramount importance. Our design criteria therefore rejected wireless sensors because of the threat they pose from hacking.”
Preventing downtime via prediction is better than trying to find the quickest cure after the fact. Thermal monitoring can identify the build-up of excess heat on the power terminations well in advance of failure.
“The on-going quest of the data center industry is to achieve 100% uptime,” Planta said. “This technology is a part of that jigsaw towards the elimination of downtime risks”
OM2200 Operations Manager
Opengear had a vision of providing customers a 10GbE solution and NetOps automation within an operations manager. The OM2200 Operations Manager not only accomplishes this goal but also landed a winning spot in the Top Tier Products.
The OM2224-24E-10G-L is the newest member of the NetOps Console Server series, enabling both advanced automation applications and smart out-of-band features, which include automated port discovery and VLAN support, in a single appliance. With dual 10GbE SFP+ Ethernet ports, the new model supports the higher bandwidth infrastructure common in data centers and high-density installations today and adds flexibility to configurations with both serial console and Ethernet ports. An embedded 4G-LTE cellular modem ensures access even when primary connections are not available.
It uses open architecture based on the Linux operating system and contains a TPM 2.0 chip, which provides a secure boot process to protect against configuration and firmware tampering. To keep configuration and software files on-site where they are needed, the console server includes 64 GB of internal flash memory.
In designing the hardware, Opengear worked with its customers, strategic accounts, and architecture teams to co-develop the OM2224-24E-10G-L to meet the needs of large deployments. When researching the most beneficial features, the company focused on access to open source NetOps tools, types of ports, and flexibility.
“Through Opengear’s technology, devices can configure and mediate the gaps often caused by staffing shortages at data centers,” Gary Marks, President of Opengear. “The automation tools allow devices to automatically provision, remediate, control, and monitor its applications or other types of devices.”
“It’s about time open source hit storage in an impactful way.”
At least, that’s what the judges had to say about Softiron’s HyperDrive Performance+.
The company’s flagship enterprise storage solution is purpose-built to optimize the performance of Ceph, an open-source SDS platform, renowned for its durability, resiliency, and scalability. Ceph supports block, file, and object storage and, ultimately, provides a means for data center owners and operators to future-proof their infrastructure.
SoftIron is targeting edge computing deployments, where high-performance, low-latency operation is needed, yet space, power, and cooling are challenges. The new appliances are ideal in use cases where powerful and efficient compact clusters are desired in order to ingest data as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. These include applications, such as media and entertainment content delivery, CGI rendering, tier one research computing, fintech applications, and AI training.
HyperDrive Performance+ appliances consume less than 250 W of power each and provide line-rate throughput with 25GbE network connectivity. The Performance+ family provides the lowest latency solution in the HyperDrive portfolio and is the ideal fit for scale-out use cases where durability and performance are paramount.
“Traditional data center infrastructure leans heavily on commodity hardware and proprietary software, resulting in workload inefficiencies that produce unnecessary heat, drain power, and create bottlenecks and waste, especially at scale,” said Isaac Lopez, account executive. “The industry has focused attention on myriad ways to improve cooling and provide more 'green' power to the racks. SoftIron has, uniquely, redesigned data center hardware from its source code up, eliminating inefficiencies that do not serve the scale-out future. Getting its start in designing high-performance, low power, ultra-dependable appliances for military special operations, SoftIron has re- engineered what is possible in performance, density, and efficiency both at the edge, but also in modern, scalable data centers — and up to high-performance computing.”
The winner of the Racks category is the Vertiv VRC-S Edge-Ready Micro Data Center System. The judges chose this product because it offers a comprehensive IT solution in a plug-and-play system that quickly and easily installs in edge applications or wherever IT need is. The solution offers a pre-integrated IT rack that incorporates the Vertiv Geist PDU for intelligent switched outlet level monitoring across the rack; the Vertiv VRC self-contained rack cooling kit, offering up to 3.5 kW of energy-efficient cooling with an integrated heat rejection system; and embedded Vertiv Intelligence Director software for remote monitoring and management of all system components.
Customer feedback identified the need for a complete infrastructure solution — rack, cooling, power, and UPS — in a compact footprint for edge applications with airflow challenges. Ease of installation was also critical. Based on customer input, Vertiv developed a system with increased airflow management in the front of the rack to decrease hot air mixing with cool air within the rack.
Ideally suited for IT closets, open office spaces, remote locations, unconditioned areas, and light industrial areas, it’s available in eight pre-built standard options with four rack sizes and two voltage options (120 V or 208 V).
Piecing together the various components of an IT solution for edge applications can be a major challenge for today’s busy IT managers. From specifying the right components to waiting for a custom solution to be built to integrating the appropriate cooling, the process consumes time and resources that aren’t always available. The VRC-S takes the legwork and wait time out of the equation.
SafeProx was designed to be used on construction sites to keep everyone who enters the perimeter a safe distance from one another to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. In the event of transmissions, the SafeProx hardware communicates with the Eyrus software platform to determine contract tracing interaction, where exactly across a job site the interaction in question occurred, exactly who was a part of the interaction, and when it took place. The contact-tracing reports provide data securely and anonymously.
Beyond the context of contact tracing, SafeProx is also applicable in creating density alerts; tracking evacuation efforts on a job site; determining whether someone without clearance is in a zone they are not certified to be in; providing objective information for liability purposes; and, on a broader scale, delivering clear and precise data to create efficiency and safety across a workforce.
“The COVID-19 pandemic will not be the last pandemic in our lifetime, or the next,” said Hussein Cholkamy, co-founder and COO of Eyrus. “Epidemics are increasingly common, too, especially as developing countries continually increase infrastructure development efforts. While created reactively, SafeProx can be an essential tool for preparedness that companies employ to remain proactive.
“From inception, we built Eyrus to be a trusted partner to our clients through our innovation and customer support,” he continued. “Our clients rely on our flexible and easy to use system for their workforce visibility, safety, and security as well as their project schedule risk mitigation. With the COVID-19 pandemic, our clients wanted to manage the safety of their workforce. We layered in our SafeProx Badge to help manage proximity and dwell time in order to bring their workforce safely back to work. We are proud to be recognized as one of the Top Tier Products, validating our efforts to provide value and meet the needs of our customers."
When a mission critical event takes place, system administrators no longer need to waste time logging in and out of different systems to get messages out — they can reach all devices with just a few clicks or the push of a button, thanks to InformaCast Fusion from Singlewire, this year’s Top Tier Products award-winner in the Software category.
“InformaCast Fusion was created as a result of an intense analysis of what was currently available on the market and what our own customers have asked us to provide them from a solution standpoint,” said Paul Shain, CEO of Singlewire. “Many organizations rely solely on mass SMS text messaging solutions when trying to reach their people. While this may seem adequate, organizations need to be able to leverage on-premises and mobile devices when sending mission critical alerts to ensure messages reach as close to 100% of the intended audience as possible.
“We identified a need to be able to manage communications for all channels from a single tool, and that’s what InformaCast Fusion does,” he continued. “It offers a single, easy-to-use solution for organizations to send messages to all on-premises and mobile devices using text, audio, phone calls, images, emails, and more, so no one misses a message.”
Singlewire’s software solution offers a wide range of applications for mission critical industries. Additionally, customizable message templates mean organizations can build notifications for whatever disruption they may encounter. This could be anything from active shooters and medical emergencies to severe weather and network outages. The goal is to get information into the hands of the people who need it quickly, so they keep operations running smoothly.
It also offers a number of automated functions that work in tandem with its notification capabilities. With integrations into gunshot detection devices, eyewash stations, and AED cabinets, system administrators can get the context they need around an event the moment it happens, speeding up the incident management process. At the same time a notification goes out, a production line can be shut down, doors can be locked, or strobe lights can be activated, reducing risk for people in the area.
During the recent pandemic, many organizations used InformaCast Fusion to help with the switch to remote work. The software was used to announce schedule changes, facility closings and reopenings, and even to prescreen employees for COVID-19 symptoms before they returned on-site
“Organizations rely on strong communication to help keep mission critical operations running,” Shain said. “This award highlights the benefits our InformaCast mass notification system can provide to help keep people safe and informed while maintaining operations.”
SyCool provides owners and engineers with an alternative to chilled water and pumped refrigerant systems, which is what landed it the winner’s spot in the Thermal Management Solutions category.
This split system uses dual, two-phase thermosiphon circuits to remove heat from the white space and provides up to 500 feet of equivalent piping separation between the CRAH and condenser, making it a good fit for multistory data centers. What’s more is the thermosiphon piping between the CRAH units and condensers is low-pressure refrigerant with no oil, allowing the use of flameless mechanical pipe couplings.
The efficient indoor CRAH units provide either flooded room or underfloor air delivery. They work by drawing warm air from the data hall using efficient, electronically commutated motor (ECM)-driven plenum fans. The air flows over the evaporator coils, and liquid refrigerant absorbs the heat. Once this happens, there is a phase change from liquid to vapor. The vapor then travels up gas lines to external condensers, where ambient air, pulled by ECM-driven axial fans, flows over specially designed coils that condense the vapor back to a liquid. The liquid then flows back to the evaporator coils by gravity. When ambient air is too warm to provide 100% passive condensing, active condensing is initiated in a patent pending design. Multiple scroll compressors create cold refrigerant that flows through active plate and frame heat exchangers, imparting cooling to the thermosiphons to supplement passive condensing. SyCool eliminates the maintenance and energy costs of pumping systems as well as the complex sequencing controls required by chiller-based cooling platforms.
Additional benefits of the SyCool system include side-by-side mounting with no clearance, a compact design with no side access required, and low annual energy usage with a mechanical PUE close to 1.1, excellent part-load performance. Furthermore, units are scalable in 400-kW increments with factory-validated controls, and the thermosiphon technology is compatible with direct-to-chip and immersion-type cooling systems.
“We are honored to be chosen as the recipient of this year’s Top Tier Products awards for our SyCool Split product,” said Michael Gantert, president of data center technologies at Munters. “At Munters, we take pride in introducing innovative, energy-efficient cooling solutions to the data center industry. Our thermosiphon cooling technology represents the next chapter in a long history of innovation at Munters, and we greatly appreciate the recognition."
The mission critical market is hungry for standard, validated scalability and efficiency, and SyCool uniquely has these characteristics.
First place in the UPS category goes to ZincFive’s BC Series Battery Cabinets — the first nickel-zinc battery energy storage system (BESS) with backward and forward compatibility and megawatt-class inverters.
The company innovated beyond the battery by designing the cabinets to be electrically compatible with lead-acid battery-based backup systems, thereby becoming a drop-in replacement for lead-acid battery cabinets. Users can retrofit the BC Series without modification to their existing UPS.
“Previously, BESS users have had to compromise in one or more areas of performance, safety, or the environment when choosing energy storage solutions,” said Tim Hysell, CEO of ZincFive. “The scope of the project with ZincFive BC Series Battery Cabinets has resulted in minimizing compromises in BESS while bringing a disruptive battery technology in a turnkey solution to a large global market.”
Independent third-party analysis of end-to-end environmental impact shows nickel-zinc batteries to have a climate impact score significantly superior to lead-acid and lithium battery chemistries.
“The nickel-zinc technology could displace market share for lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries," one of the judges said. "And, the power density is an attractive feature."
The power density of the nickel-zinc batteries used in the BC Series Battery Cabinets is well-suited to large-scale energy storage, where delivering the smallest footprint per megawatt is important to the end user. High power density must be accompanied with safety in operation, and ZincFive has developed a high-power density battery that does not exhibit thermal runaway at the cell level based on the results of UL testing. This means the BESS design does not need to include additional safety mechanisms.
Next, the nickel-zinc battery can operate at higher temperatures than both lead-acid and lithium solutions, providing a cooling cost savings. Reliability is key in mission critical applications, and when a lead-acid or lithium-ion battery cell fails, it creates an open circuit that halts battery string operation. A weak or depleted nickel-zinc cell, on the other hand, remains conductive, allowing the string to continue operating. This turns an emergency situation with other battery chemistries into a simple battery replacement at the next planned maintenance cycle with little cost and no operational impact.
“This capability of nickel-zinc batteries is a paradigm shift in battery string reliability and uptime," Hysell said.
In addition, nickel-zinc battery strings tolerate string imbalances, enabling users to add strings to existing systems or change out batteries over time, mixing older batteries with new ones, thereby lowering CapEx and maintenance costs.
“This product appears to offer significant advantages with footprint and reliability over lead-acid and lithium-ion UPS battery solutions for new and retrofit applications,” said one of the judges. “In addition, the low environmental impact of the product may help end users meet sustainability goals and green initiatives.”
A transition from lead-acid to alternative battery chemistries is underway in the mission critical industry, and nickel-zinc offers a safe, reliable, and sustainable solution while delivering a low total cost of ownership.
Amy Al-Katib, CDCDP, is editor-in-chief of Mission Critical magazine. She is a member of 7x24 Exchange Intl., ASIS Intl., BICSI, iMasons, the International Society of Philosophical Enquiry, and Mensa. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Michigan State University and a certificate in STEM/computer science from New York University. She is currently enrolled in the Master's of Science Cybersecurity program at NYU. Reach her at email@example.com.