This article comes from Upwind Solutions and is written by Heath Pratt, Manager of SCADA Services at the company.
Server virtualization is the masking of server resources, including the number and identity of individual physical servers, processors, and operating systems, from server users. The server administrator uses a software to divide a physical server into multiple isolated virtual environments.” Source: TechTarget
A wind park typically has several OEM servers working as a real-time SCADA server, database server, and remote-access server, all of which take up substantial space and require a lot of manpower to ensure they run at peak performance. Most wind parks which have servers that have been running since COD and are now out of warranty (or soon to be). The parts needed to support them are becoming harder and harder to find and are further limited by legacy software restrictions. In the event of failures, support staffs must often reach out to the OEM who in turn install their own proprietary applications costing tens of thousands.
Here’s what could happen: Your site database server crashes and you find the system is out of warranty. Making matters worse, required repair parts are no longer available. You have no option but to procure a new system and deploy it to the site. You do so and your technical staff has installed everything onto the system but cannot get the database to collect data. They determine a need for the OEM to restore the site database configuration, a task which will cost thousands more in addition to the hardware cost, and all just to resume data acquisition.
One solution is SCADA infrastructure virtualization. It helps owners reduce the number of servers the technical staff needs to support and helps create internal company equipment life cycle plans. In addition, it provides the technical staff with a more efficient and cost effective way to manage their servers and to protect their critical infrastructure.
A few advantages of infrastructure virtualization
- Longer life cycle of critical infrastructure
- Increased security for NERC while eliminating direct physical access to the actual SCADA service
- Lower cost of ownership
- Ability to migrate older legacy servers and software into modern technology equipment
- Fewer points of failure with appropriate redundancy
- Lower support requirements
- Increased critical infrastructure reliability
- Ability to migrate into the virtualized environment without the need of the OEM
- Increased ability for testing of patch management offline without impacting production
- Faster disaster recovery upon system failures without the need of the OEM
Determining requirements for your site
First you will need to determine what you have – the number of servers, the amount of storage, and anticipated future growth. After determining these, your technical staff can procure appropriate hardware for the site. Most commonly, virtual environments consist of two virtual servers, one SAN (storage area network), and appropriate virtual server licensing (VMware). This is the most common configuration for redundancy to your critical infrastructure.
Making the move
Planning is key. Most systems allow for a live migration into the virtual environment with a short outage to make the cut from the physical system to the migrated virtual system. While some systems require a scheduled downtime to migrate to prevent data loss or corruption, this is common for database servers and protocol (OPC/Modbus) servers.
Reliability for uptime and life cycles
Once the critical infrastructure is running in the new virtual environment, technical staff can monitor the health of the virtual server host and the virtualized servers running within. Now upon host failures, the virtual host fails over to the redundant system to prevent a disruption of service, and it alerts the technical staff of failure.
At the end of equipment warranties and internal life-cycle programs, technical staff can pause each virtual host and resume the session on the new virtual host within minutes to avoid downtime and outages.
Another plus: Disaster recovery
Virtual environments provide multiple options to protect servers from a disaster. Technical staff can create static failback copies of the server(s) along with running backups and snapshots to better guard servers from complete failures. Restoring or migrating these snapshots allows for faster restoration of servers.
UpWind Solutions Inc. has assisted several owners with the migration to a virtualized environment to better extend the equipment life cycle. Most of clients have had older critical infrastructure with older legacy hardware and software components which have failed only to find replacement items were unavailable. The solution discussed has let our clients extend the life of their infrastructure wi
thout the need for OEM assistance and overhead which they did not budget.
“The Upwind Solutions team has provided the total solutions package that we were searching for, at a fraction of the cost of the OEM. The level of technical service prior to, through the technical process, and post virtualization conversion has been impeccable, and is second to none.” – Bryce D. Merrick, Site Manager at Fossil Gulch Wind Farm.
Heath Pratt has been in the technology field for 20+ years performing work that has ranged from network administration to I/T management. Over the last 12 years he has been focused solely on Wind Energy and the reliability of SCADA systems. He has worked for OEM’s, Owners’ and now with a industry leading ISP. Over his tenure in Wind, he has focused to find ways to extend the life of mission critical equipment to reduce the cost of ownership for our projects. Having experience with GE, Vestas, Seimens, Clipper, Gamesa, Nordex and several more, he has been able to help improve the day to day reliability of the site infrastructure and critical systems required for both UpWind and their clients.
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