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“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 application to divide one physical server into multiple isolated virtual environments.” Source: TechTarget

A wind park typically has several OEM servers such as: Real-Time SCADA Server, Database Server, and Remote Access Server, all of which take up substantial space and require a lot of man power to ensure they run at peak performance. Most wind parks which have servers that have been running since COD are out of warranty (or soon to be), the parts needed to support are becoming harder and harder to find, and they are limited by legacy software restrictions. Often, in the event of failures, support staff are required to reach out to the OEM who in turn install their own proprietary applications costing tens of thousands of dollars.

SCADA Infrastructure VirtualizationAn example of this would be: Your site database server crashes and the system is out of warranty and the parts required to do a  repair are no longer available. You have no option but to procure a new system and deploy it to the site. Your technical staff has installed everything onto the system but cannot get the database to collect data and have determined the need for the OEM to restore the site database configuration costing tens of thousands of dollars in addition to the hardware cost just to resume data acquisition.

SCADA infrastructure virtualization helps owners reduce the number of servers technical staff need to support and helps to create internal company equipment life cycle plans. It provides the technical staff with a more efficient and cost effective way to manage their servers and to protect their critical infrastructure.

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/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 the requirements for your virtual environment.

First you will need to determine what you have. How many servers, how much storage and future growth. Once you have determined this you can have your technical staff procure the appropriate hardware for the site. Most commonly your virtual environment would consist of 2 virtual servers and 1 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 will allow for a live migration into the virtual environment allowing for a short outage to make the cut from the physical system to the migrated virtual system. While some systems will require a scheduled downtime to migrate to prevent data loss or corruption, this is commonly database servers and protocol (OPC/Modbus) servers.

Reliability for uptime and life cycles

Once you have your critical infrastructure running in the new virtual environment, technical staff can monitor the health the virtual server host and the health of the virtualized servers running within. Upon host failures the virtual host will fail over to the redundant system to prevent a disruption of service and alert the technical staff of failure.

Upon the end of equipment warranty 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.

Disaster recovery

Virtual environments offer multiple options to protect your servers for a disaster. Technical staff can create static failback copies of the server(s) along with running backups and snapshots to better guard your servers from complete failures. Restoring or migrating these snapshots allows for faster restoration of your servers.

UpWind Solutions Inc. has assisted several owners with the migration into a virtualized environment to better extend the equipment life cycle. Most of our clients have had older critical infrastructure with older legacy hardware/software components which have failed and replacement items were not available. This solution has allowed our clients to extend the life of their infrastructure without the need of OEM assistance and overhead they did not budget and expect.

“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