Enterprise energy management: IT and building management systems meet

As IP-based building management systems emerge, networking teams will control integrated IT and building resources as part of an overall enterprise energy management strategy.

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The takeaway: IP-based building management systems will enable IT teams to jointly manage IT resources alongside building facilities with one console in a joint enterprise energy management strategy.

I recently saw a lighting control app that would allow me to shut off my home lights remotely from my PDA. What if you could do this with your data center or office building? It may not happen with an easily downloadable app, but inevitably IT components and building resources such as lighting and HVAC will be managed remotely from an integrated IT and building management system console—and the hand in control will very likely belong to the IT infrastructure or networking team.

IT teams already manage building systems on a smaller scale in the data center, which consumes the most power of any system in an enterprise.  But even beyond power, data centers require HVAC, lighting and physical security monitoring and management such as access controls and video surveillance.  Over the years, IT has become increasingly proficient at managing these non-IT systems either through disparate or integrated management consoles.

To scale this management enterprise wide, IT resources and building control systems must interface. That is becoming more of a possibility now that non-IT systems are connecting to the network at a high rate. 

I recently spoke with an IT architect at a large university whose next building will have more non-IT devices attached to the network than IT devices. These devices will include IP addressable temperature sensors, door relays, switches and video cameras.  Yet just because the systems are on the network doesn’t mean IT can manage them. After all, most legacy systems are still on proprietary, dedicated networks.

What's behind IP-based building management systems

The technology already exists to build integrated IT resources and building management systems for enterprise energy control.

Building Management Systems (BMS) are the center of energy and facilities management, and most BMS have direct IP interfaces. Newer systems even have HTML Web interfaces. At a protocol level, Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) for Process Control (OPC) is the evolving standard for systems interfacing to BMS and communicating with intelligent sensors and controls. OPC allows developers to write an OPC server for an endpoint device or BMS. OPC clients communicate with OPC servers using Microsoft OLE.  Sound complex? It is. To address this complexity, the OPC Foundation has been developing OPC Unified Architecture, which moves away from the COM model to a fully open, platform-independent service-oriented architecture (SOA) model. This opens the door to high-level integration among IT systems, BMS, direct power, HVAC and security endpoint monitoring, management and control.

In this scenario, on the back end the BMS would communicate with target devices across one or two buses. Many systems still use the Modbus protocol, a low-level protocol to communicate with Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC). Others use standards-based BACNet (ISO 16484-5) and/or LonTalk (ANSI/CEA 709.1).

Methods for integrating IT and building management systems

It’s one thing to plan out a new building where all sensors and controls talk TCP/IP.  It’s another thing to try to integrate legacy systems. Enterprises must tie together BMS and IT management systems. Some higher-level IT management systems like IBM Tivoli and HP OpenView already support this integration by using a range of integration points from SOA to Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP).

But, what if you don’t have one of these higher-level systems? An excellent option is using BMS Web services to do a mashup, combining IT management and BMS on a single pane of glass. A more involved and more integrated implementation can be found in tying together IT management systems with BMS and even intelligent endpoints following the OPC Unified Architecture model. A less involved, though less functional option, would be implementing an element manager that monitors building systems and delivers alerts and events via a standard protocol like SNMP to the IT management system.

As IT pays more attention to energy management in the data center, it makes sense for IT to start managing energy enterprise-wide.  This will be a gradual process where initially it may just be monitoring, but eventually IT will be controlling the lights in the building. 

About the author: Ted Ritter is a senior research analyst with Nemertes Research, where he conducts research, advises clients\ and delivers strategic seminars. A Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Mr. Ritter leads Nemertes' research on information stewardship, which includes compliance, as well as the management, access, storage and backup of data.

This was first published in June 2011

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