Alaskan Air Force Base Relies on APC UPSs to go Beyond the Usual Call of Duty

Over the course of two days hanging out on the Schneider Electric booth at the recent Interop 2014 event in Las Vegas, I met a lot of customers who were happy, loyal, long-time users of APC by Schneider Electric products. But something about David Brand really struck me.

Brand is a (civilian) CIO for the Dept. of Defense, working at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska. It’s a critical location for the DOD and he’s responsible for ensuring the data centers and alarm systems stay online “as much as possible.”

Now you’d think that any location that the government deems is “critical” would have the resources it needs to ensure data center uptime. That is especially true when said facility is under the auspices of the Defense Dept., which tends to have the kind of large budgets most of us can only dream about.

But that does not appear to be the case for the facility Brand is responsible for. Rather than dedicated generators for backup power, he shares portable generators with other government facilities in the area. “They have reasons” for the strategy, he says, including ease of maintenance and ensuring reliability of the generators.

That means Brand has rather special requirements for his uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs). In the event of a power outage, rather than just provide a few seconds of backup power until the generators kick in, Brand’s UPSs have to carry the load for hours – until a generator is literally brought in, hooked up and brought online.

As a result, one of his data centers needs 12 hours of battery backup power available at all times. To help handle that load, he uses a mix of UPSs including APC by Schneider Electric Symmetra units. He’s been using APC UPSs for his entire career, more than 16 years. “Over the years it’s been very reliable,” he says.

The units are certainly put to the test at Elmendorf, where he says weather may include snow one day, rain the next and lots of wind storms that knock over power lines. On average, he says the base experiences about 3 power outages per year.

“The last wind storm we had, last year, we actually had power go out for about 48 hours at the critical location, and it took 8 hours for them to get my generator there,” he says. “The UPS worked perfectly, everything stayed online.”

Brand also uses Schneider Electric SmartUPS units to protect critical workstations as well as network connections on the base, with a minimum of 8 hours of backup power for every network closet. That makes sense, given how important it is to have an available Internet connection to keep employees productive.