Continuity of operations isn’t just about having a good failover plan or dependable backups. It’s just as important — if not more so — to prevent minor outages from becoming major ones. And one of the weakest links in many data centers is the power distribution system.
As data centers consolidate more systems and power distribution into racks, it becomes ever more important to monitor power distribution and uninterruptible power supplies, and to link the information about the elements of the power system to the enterprise resources that depend on them. The good news is that data center UPS systems such as those from Tripp Lite provide a way for administrators to track the devices as part of network and applications management. The Tripp Lite SNMP Web Management Accessory Card  can supply information on power and environmental conditions of a UPS, and also automate tasks such as restarting attached network equipment remotely in cases where the failure isn’t power-related.
The SNMP Web Card installs easily into existing Tripp Lite SmartPro and SmartOnline UPS systems, as well as some of the company’s Power Distribution Units , plugging into their accessory expansion slots. I tested the card in a Tripp Lite SmartPro 3000  rack-mountable UPS.
In addition to providing data on the status of power systems, the SNMP Web Card can also connect to Tripp Lite’s Envirosense  modules, which can feed the card data on temperature and humidity, as well as information from dry contact inputs from other sensor, security and alarm systems.
All of this data is accessible both from a web-based interface on the card and through the Simple Network Management Protocol, or even by connecting to the card remotely via a Telnet or Secure Shell terminal session. This means that administrators don’t have to be at a management console to access data from the UPS or PDU that the card is connected to, which is handy if they get a fault report in the middle of the night.
The card also has a built-in alert feature that uses an RSS feed. RSS publishes current alarm states and event logs in a form that can be read from any RSS client — a web browser, news reader or mail client such as Microsoft Outlook, or even an RSS aggregator, such as an internal support blog feed. The RSS feed’s address can be grabbed from the card’s browser interface. The SNMP Web Card can also provide access to system status as an XML document, text file or comma-delimited table.
The card comes with a CD that contains the SNMP Management Information Base (MIB) files required for configuring network management and monitoring tools to provide an interface within those tools to the card’s data and features, providing support for SNMP v.3. The SNMP agent responds to standard SNMP commands such as get, get next and set, and generates SNMP “traps” that can be used to automate other management functions.
Installation of the card is straightforward. You don’t even have to power down a UPS to add the card. Basic configuration requires terminal emulation software and a connection to a computer’s serial port. But once the device is initially configured, any other adjustments can be made from a web browser.
The SNMP Web Card has no functional downside; it does everything it’s supposed to do. The main drawback of the card is its price. Starting at $221, it’s more expensive than some UPS systems themselves. That means it’s best suited for high-end UPS systems and PDUs in a high-density data center environment, and not just any UPS on the network.