Eaton Partners with University of Zagreb to Develop Micro Data Centers

Eaton, global vendor and provider of power management solutions, is partnering with the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Informatics (FER) of the University of Zagreb to develop micro data center solutions. The aim is to enable data centers with one to ten racks to get more value from their IT infrastructure, at a significantly lower cost and without the complexity of traditional solutions.

Their joint initiative is called the IDEAS (Immersive Data Center Exploration and Supervision) project. In this project, which is financially supported by the European Union, the faculty is working with a panel of Eaton partners and customers on small data center solutions.

In the consultation phase of the IDEAS project, it was identified that Augmented Reality (AR) data center managers have the potential to help them manage their IT infrastructure quickly and remotely, at times when qualified personnel are physically unable or difficult to access the infrastructure. For example, a technician who cannot simply board a freighter to perform maintenance could use IDEAS to remotely perform, or have the work performed.

An initial pilot project using an AR prototype built by the University of Zagreb is now being tested with some key customers, with further development being planned. The prototype uses IT and energy solutions as defined in the Eaton Intelligent Power Manager (IPM) software to project static information (server model) or dynamic information (power consumption) over the image captured by a phone or tablet, allowing for “easy” remote maintenance.

“The IDEAS project offers an innovative and competitive solution at a time when the number of data centers in Europe is rapidly increasing due to the ‘cloudification’ of enterprise IT,” said Eric Rueda, Software and Connectivity commercial leader at Eaton. “Due to emerging technologies such as IoT and 5G, the number of very small data centers, also known as Edge IT, will only increase further.”

“New and existing data centers need to be monitored and managed to ensure business continuity,” added Mr. Rueda. “The IDEAS project is working with our customers and partners to develop solutions to real market challenges by giving data center teams easy access to infrastructure management tools and functions through a service-based business model.”

Eaton’s Local IT Channel Partners

Eaton logoDuring the first phase of the IDEAS project, the consortium conducted a competitive analysis. In phase two, interactive focus groups were set up with Eaton’s local IT channel partners in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Denmark, Italy and Morocco.

In interactive virtual sessions, participants were shown the lifecycle of Eaton’s data center services and innovation projects such as AR, which use IPM software to monitor infrastructure. Attention was also paid to large-scale commissioning tools for Power Distribution Units (PDUs) and Machine Learning technology for shutdown policies – an addition to IPM’s ability to ensure business continuity. Eaton then collected feedback on the interest in and viability of these solutions.

According to Eaton, this approach led to collaboration between divisional members and sales organizations from multiple countries. Involving partners and end customers in forward-looking explorations strengthened the relationship with partners and increased customer loyalty, says Eaton. It also gave the vendor relevant input for innovation projects and customer input on new products and services.

HPC Architecture and Applications Research Center

Photo Eric Rueda, Software and Connectivity commercial leader at Eaton
“Due to emerging technologies such as IoT and 5G, the number of very small data centers, also known as Edge IT, will only increase further,” said Eric Rueda, Software and Connectivity commercial leader at Eaton.

The HPC Architecture and Applications research center of the FER focuses on the development of advanced processor and accelerator technology with a low-power design approach for both general and specialized processing, along with efficient application design to make future High-Performance Computing (HPC) systems sustainable.

“By integrating Augmented Reality with Eaton’s IPM software, we have created a solution for the efficient operation of data centers that fits well with our portfolio of HPC solutions,” said Prof. Dr. Mario Kovac, Director of the HPC Architectures and Applications Research Centre at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Zagreb. “We are pleased that the joint efforts of Eaton and the FER’s HPC Architecture and Applications research center have been successfully deployed. The complementary expertise has triggered even more ideas to be implemented in the near future.”

The IDEAS project is partly funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, under grant agreement no. 851835, which Eaton received in 2019 for research on cloud versus on-premises data centers for SMEs.

The project is aimed at unlocking the potential of the commercial application of R&D results for new data center monitoring software previously developed in the EU Horizon 2020 Future and Emerging technologies (FET) project MANGO. Project MANGO was designed to achieve optimal return on investment in future HPC applications requiring high quality services, thanks to an ambitious cross-border architectural exploration.