KUKA AG Green and Autarchic

KUKA and Data Center Group develop a data center with regards to digitalization
References | 31.07.2017

The three main requirements of KUKA AG on their new data center in their company domicile in Augsburg, Bavaria, were very ambitious. It was supposed to be autarchic and green. And most of all high-available. This is an inescapable necessity in times of digitalization which in turn requires a very secure IT-infrastructure. In this case, security does not only regard the access protection but also the operation which is supposed to be guaranteed by a very low failure probability. So much for the theory.

KUKA is an international provider of intelligent automatization solutions. The company has almost 40 subsidiaries worldwide, from USA to Germany to China. With roughly 12,000 employees, a yearly sale of more than 2 billion Euro is made. In 2015, a new company headquarters in Augsburg was built and an own data center was planned because as a producing concern, KUKA is dependent on a functioning IT. The dependency increases especially because of two factors:

Firstly, because of the special automatization processes that are necessary for the manufacturing of robots and secondly, because of the fact that the headquarters in Augsburg provide all IT-services and applications for the globally spread branches. Therefore, they have to be available 24 hours a day and about six or seven days per week. The systems' high availability is thus indispensable. "Downtime for maintenance on the infrastructure is a luxury which we cannot afford", explains Martin Kugelmann, Director Digital Operation Center EMEA Datacenter & Network at KUKA. 

Theory and Practice
So, as part of the planning, all technical requirements and risk factors like the location were factored in previously in order to guarantee a secure data center. Of course, the building connections of the power as well as the cooling water supply and the network technology were assessed with focus on the redundant routing and cable runs. The area of the data center is 83 m² and constructed to meet future requirements on digitalization. "At the same time, it is quite hard to judge how much room IT-components will need in ten years", admits Kugelmann. Using the cloud is not an option at the moment because only little information can be stored there. And business-critical information like construction data or ERP-systems definitely do not belong to this on the basis of the security strategy of KUKA. 

In the next step from theory to practice, KUKA was looking for an experienced parter that could realize the project with them. The company’s guidelines for the data center were oriented towards the TSI-level 3 of TÜV-NORD, which, among other things, calls for a completely redundant datacenter that does not need any maintenance windows. Kugelmann:" We noticed before the realization that our concept of security and availability can only be implemented by an experienced specialist. The proposals of common construction firms were not adequate enough to guarantee the required quality because data center construction was not their main business. From there on, we looked for a competent partner that could help us with the project planning and the implementation of our data center."

This partner was finally found in the Data Center Group with headquarters in Wallmenroth. The company is a full-range supplier for physical infrastructures. Their portfolio includes both the analysis and planning of entire data centers as well as the turnkey-ready construction of IT-locations and the subsequent services and maintenance. The various competences are represented by different business areas and most of them took part in this project. It began with consulting by the business area Data Center Consulting, went on to the realization by Data Center Construction and finished with maintenance agreements by Data Center Services. On top of that, the Data Center Group issued a functional specification of the data center and supervised the certification by TÜV Saarland.

Green and Autarchic

The first request was made in February 2014 and the planning phase started in May. The new data center was already built and ready-to-use by October 2015. At the end of the year, KUKA moved in and started the operation. Part of the building services that the Data Center Group installed for KUKA are in-row-side-coolers, cold and hot aisles, racks, PDUs and the electrical engineering. The refrigeration and the redundant UPS-systems were already on site, resp. was bought through the building services. Feed lines through wells and a cooling compressor led to a redundant refrigeration because another important factor for the KUKA was real Green-IT. This way, the water supply for the refrigeration runs through a well system.

This system has a main well for primary care. A second well can be engaged if needed and a third one is for emergencies. If the two main wells fail as water suppliers and the third one cannot provide a proper performance, the cooling will be ensured by a refrigeration machine on the roof that has a 1.2-megawatt performance. For the case of a breakdown, several low gears were installed which make sure that, in the sense of availability, the data center always has priority over the other departments. This means that the data center is supplied first by the refrigeration machine in an emergency and all the other departments afterwards. Therefore, monitoring plays an important part for KUKA in the entire data center. 

Kugelmann: "We use several systems. On the one hand, the main disturbances were put onto the BMS. This enables us to react immediately if an alarm occurs. An additional monitoring originates from the IT in our systems that supervise PDUs, coolers or residual currents. On top of that, the staff that is on standby can be reached through multiple channels. Even if the entire data center breaks down suddenly. However, this is hardly going to happen because we provide our own power supply. We have feedings from two network providers as well as an emergency generating unit with a performance of more than 1 megawatt. It is even enough to provide power to the town of Augsburg in case of a breakdown. Last but not least, we have fuel reserves so that the unit can work fully autarchically for a week. 

Present and Future

The data center has been operating since the end of 2015. Because of parallel IT-projects within the concern, the TÜV-certification happened this year. The very important video surveillance of the data center was combined with the already planned acquisition of a new video surveillance system for the entire building. Also, the certification of the data center's IT-infrastructure was embedded in an overall certification of the IT according to ISO 27001 (BSI) .

KUKA decided for Data Center Services to take care of the maintenance work. In general, the operation is very reliable and failure free. However, the redundancies must regularly be examined for failures. Kugelmann: "The emergency power feeding is checked very strictly.  This means that we do not only activate the diesel generator set but also check whether it works or not.

We turn off the power and see whether the diesel generator set turns on and and can keep the operation running for a longer period of time.  This is the only way to reliably check the redundancies. The main cooling lines that are lined twice are regularly swapped from one way to another." The person in charge looks optimistically into the future: "Significant savings in energy are already noticeable right now."

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