Starline Busway Monitoring: Everything You Need to Know
July 13, 2020

Modern data centers are growing in density and complexity as compute devices require much higher power density within a rack. This can cause power distribution, cabling, and cooling issues, and data center owners and operators are tasked with keeping pace with the ever-increasing demands of IT infrastructure. When designing the data center space, data center managers need a way to keep up with the increasing power requirements for critical infrastructure in racks while reducing the complexity of modern data center environments. As such, many data center managers deploy Starline Track Busway for their power distribution architecture and Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software to monitor it.

“Power, space, and cooling are the three most critical pillars that you should always keep in mind when designing your data center space,” says data center expert Ben Frame, a TechOps generalist who has worked in a broad range of technical and mentorship roles in both IT and operations and has expertise in integrating and engineering systems with an emphasis on security compliance. “Obtaining and distributing power can occasionally be challenging with all the options available dependent on your requirements. Is the space going to be static, or does it fluctuate with hardware constantly coming and going? Power redundancy and safety, and particularly ease of access for technicians, are often prioritized.”

What is Starline Busway?

Starline Track Busway is a self-contained overhead power distribution system, meaning there are no cables to potentially obstruct airflow. It is extremely energy efficient, modular, equipped for high-density power distribution, and designed and rated to meet and exceed the reliability demands and thermal requirements of mission critical facilities.

Starline eliminates the distribution panels of traditional systems, allowing for easy additions and changes without shutting off the power. Self-contained plug-in units can be inserted anywhere along the busway in nearly every NEMA configuration, and they have fewer mechanical joints for increased efficiency and reliability.

What are the Benefits of Starline Busway Compared to Remote Power Panels (RPPs) and Power Whips?

A power whip is a branch circuit power distribution cable that carries power from a Remote Power Panel (RPP) to a server cabinet, typically underneath a raised floor. Some data center managers prefer this system for its lower upfront costs, mobility, short lead times, and the ability to be installed by any electrical contractor. Others find that RPPs inhibit flexibility, require difficult circuit additions, require new cable installation, restrict airflow, and make tile removal necessary for any work.

“Starline busways offer excellent flexibility and ease of use with overhead connectors that are always available; just plug and twist and you have power,” says Frame. “They're particularly useful both for growing existing space and future planning when increasing demand might lead to a need for higher rack density. The clean lines and easy organization of your power cables also improve the aesthetic for executive tours through your data center space.”

“However, there are some caveats,” Frame continues. “The easy access and lack of physical limitations comes with the risk of making it quite easy to oversubscribe your power draw, so careful planning is necessary.”

The benefits of Starline busways include:

  • Reduced construction costs and time of construction. Overhead power can eliminate the need for a raised floor.
  • Reduced human error. Human error is the number one cause of data center downtime. By decreasing the amount of cabling in the data center, overhead power lessens the possibility of cabling errors.
  • Increased space capacity. Expensive equipment like RPPs and PDPs can be phased out which saves money, creates more usable space, and removes potential points of failure.
  • Flexibility. Overhead power allows you to add or remove circuits in a matter of minutes.
  • Improved energy efficiency. Improve airflow and cooling by removing underfloor cable air dams and reduce bypass airflow by eliminating cable access holes such as brushes and grommets.
  • Scalability. Power connections can be added as needed, deferring costs until cabinets require power.
  • Modularity. Varying power densities can be fed with the same busway infrastructure.
  • Easily configurable. The same busway infrastructure can be used for single and three phase loads.
  • Reliability. Starline’s joints are maintenance free and do not require retorquing. The plug-in units have the highest mean time between failures (MTBF) of any available on the market due to having no moving parts or copper grease to ensure a good mechanical and electrical connection.
  • Customizability. Starline’s plug-in units and busway lengths are designed and engineered to the customer’s specifications.
  • Safety. Starline provides options to eliminate or greatly reduce incident energy or operate plug-ins remotely, and it has the highest IP rating in the industry (up to IP3X with certain options).

How Do I Monitor Starline Busway?

With the right Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software, it is easy to centrally manage all Starline tap boxes and end feeds. Sunbird Software, as the strategic software partner of Starline, provides the information you need to fully utilize your Starline Track Busway infrastructure, while alerting you to trouble before it causes service-impacting downtime. Sunbird’s Power IQ® data center power, energy, and environment monitoring solution scales to meet your needs, allowing you to securely keep tabs on all your Starline Busway tap boxes and end feeds, plus other CRACs, UPSs, PDUs, RPPs, meters, branch circuits, rack PDUs, environment sensors, and electronic door locks—all from a single easy-to-use web browser.

Sunbird Software and Starline combine to provide a complete solution. With both, you will have a power distribution architecture that is flexible, efficient, and manageable, and software to achieve the following:

  • Find stranded power capacity at rack feeds. Newly found capacity delays expensive capital expenditure.
  • Project future power capacity needs. Trending and days of supply projections enable accurate forecasting.
  • Visualize rack- and row-level power usage. Easily understand total usage vs. budgeted capacity at the cabinet and end feeds and monitor usage trends over time.
  • Simulate rack failover. Reports identify available capacity to ensure redundancy in case of failure.
  • Visualize data center and facility health status. A health map of your data center floor with red, yellow, and green color-coding provides an at-a-glance view of rack load levels, line currents, and all environment conditions. The multi-tile health chart widget provides red, yellow, and green health data for all your data center rooms, PODs, zones, rows, and racks in a single screen with the ability to drill down for full details.
  • Alerting and alarming of threshold violations. Automated emails enable quick identification of overcurrent conditions, breaker load threshold violations, three phase balance issues, and potential trouble areas.
  • Real-time Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE). See real-time measurements of total facility energy vs. your total IT equipment energy to gauge efficiency and identify opportunities to improve.
  • Bill back energy costs based on usage. Automatically generated bill back reports drive more energy efficient behavior.

Data center expert Ben Frame provides additional insight on monitoring Starline busway. “The Critical Power Monitor (CPM) is a module that hooks directly into the busway and monitors the power draw of all downstream connections,” says Frame. “Like most smart power devices, it provides that information via configurable SNMP.”

Frame continues, “The CPM comes preconfigured for DHCP but will require a bit of manual fidgeting if your network requires static IPs. This means a manual configuration using the limited keypad from the device's LED interface to provide the address and gateway information. Once that is complete, you'll be able to have full access to the web or shell interface and be able to perform configuration tasks and firmware updates remotely, and will be able to ingest your data straight into Power IQ.”

“The easy bus-level provided by Starline CPMs make a great addition to your power tracking footprint. Because Power IQ marks the CPM as a bus rather than a rack PDU, you can avoid data doubling in your dashboards and with the addition of PDU or server monitoring, you are able to compare multiple sources from several points along your path for any efficiency loss.”

Sunbird DCIM fully supports all Starline series, models, and meters. Download our data sheet Starline Track Busway Monitoring with Power IQ DCIM Software to learn:

  • The typical location that the Starline meter is placed, whether it is at the end feed of a row or the tap box above a rack.
  • Whether Power IQ collects data from the inlet or outlet of the meter.
  • What data Power IQ collects for each meter such as watts, power factor, kilowatt hour, KVA, and amps.
  • And much more.

What Are the Benefits Monitoring Starline Busways with DCIM?

The joint solution of Starline busways and Sunbird DCIM will help you reduce operational expenses by:

  • Automating manual and time-consuming processes.
  • Eliminating the need to query available resources manually by sending technicians to the data center.
  • Maximizing uptime and reducing the need for physical trips to the data center to restore service.
  • Eliminating planned and unplanned downtime through predictive maintenance features

Plus, Starline and Sunbird DCIM will help you reduce and/or defer capital expenses by:

  • Enabling better capacity planning and maximizing utilization of existing resources.
  • Improving provisioning and balancing of three-phase power and increasing utilization of power systems.
  • Identifying opportunities to improve efficiency to defer the need for additional power resources.

Bringing It All Together

Starline Track Busway provides a power distribution architecture that is flexible, efficient, and manageable. When paired with DCIM software, the joint solution dramatically improves power capacity management, efficiency, and uptime.

Want to see for yourself how Sunbird’s second-generation DCIM software allows you to centrally manage all tap boxes and fully utilize Starline busway infrastructure? Take a free test drive today.

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