As computing technology continues to evolve, so too does data center design. The changes aren’t just faster servers and more efficient data storage, as the data center electrical infrastructure is changing as well. Existing data center electrical systems need to be upgraded to accommodate new hardware and maximize Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), while new data centers need to adopt the latest in electrical distribution centers and integrated switchboards to optimize the available space and provide power that can scale with data center expansion.
Even relatively new data centers need to be updated. Most data centers are designed to have an effective life between 10 and 15 years, and Information technology (IT) equipment is usually upgraded every two to five years. However, the data center electrical infrastructure is often overlooked, so electrical performance tends to lag behind. Just as equipment needs to be replaced and optimized, the data center electrical infrastructure needs to be upgraded to accommodate new hardware, reduce energy consumption and improve performance.
Consider the added load being placed on today’s data centers. Massive amounts of data are being generated by 5G mobile computing and the Internet of Things (IoT), as big data analytics continue to be critical to business strategies. Real-time business processes and system automation also rely on data center availability, so uptime is more critical than ever. According to the Ponemon Institute, the cost of the average data center outage has climbed from $505,502 in 2010 to $740,357 in 2015, and this runs up to more than $100,000 per hour in the current climate. The Ponemon Institute continues on to state that 80 percent of data center incidents are caused by an electrical failure. That’s reason enough to ensure that your data center’s electrical infrastructure is working at peak efficiency.
Here are five trends you can expect to see in data center electrical infrastructures:
- More Efficient in UPS Systems – Because uptime is critical, you want to be sure you have reliable uninterruptible power supply (UPS). The old lead-acid batteries are being phased out in favor of lithium-ion batteries. As a result, UPS systems are smaller and more efficient. Older UPSs are designed to deliver 80 to 82 percent under standard load, while newer units deliver as much as 99 percent. Additionally, in the past, UPSs have been oversized to accommodate larger loads, but new efficiencies such as virtualization have reduced the UPS load to decrease the amount of backup power needed. Using a modular design approach to UPS design, you can choose the best equipment and ensure it is rightly sized for the data center, so it takes less space, reduces costs and is easier to maintain.
- Renewable Power Sources – You can improve your PUE and power redundancy by adding alternative energy sources to your data center electrical infrastructure. Solar power, for example, can be used to supplement data center power. A solar array can’t generate enough power for most data centers, but it can be useful to offset the amount of power needed from the grid to reduce utility costs and to charge energy storage systems. Microgrids are also making their way into data center design, allowing operators to isolate power for critical systems. As utility grids age and become less reliable (e.g., the rolling blackouts in California), using alternative power sources will become critical.
- Smarter Electrical Infrastructures – Expect to see more automation and artificial intelligence (AI) being used to manage power and cooling. Machine learning can optimize power use based on the applications and hardware in use. AI is expected to have a huge impact on power consumption for cooling; Google has already demonstrated the potential of AI on cooling in its own data center, saving up to 40 percent of cooling requirements and energy use. Experts estimate that using AI to manage data center power can deliver a 5 percent improvement in energy efficiency. The result is lower energy costs, greater reliability and a smaller carbon footprint. Using IoT performance data will also be invaluable for maintenance, powering predictive analytics to monitor performance and will provide incident data for proactive servicing.
- Safer Electrical Distribution Designs – One area in which the data center electrical infrastructure continues to improve, is worker safety. The design of electrical distribution equipment is safer with arc chutes, and switch systems have isolated control compartments for access to meters, relays and terminal blocks. There are also remote switching features that protect workers from arc flashes.
- Eliminate Redundancy – Eighty percent of data center managers say resiliency is their top priority, so if there is a failure, critical systems will continue to operate. In the past, resiliency meant redundancy—duplicating servers, storage and power systems that would remain powered up, but idle until there was a failure. Rather than wasting money and energy on redundant systems, more data centers are applying fault tolerance using load balancing, virtualization and other strategies. Cloud computing is playing a huge role here, as more resources are being hosted, which means there is less need for redundant data center systems. IT managers also are using more Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) tools to monitor operations, including the electrical infrastructure, and identify unnecessary redundancy and potential points of failure.
All the trends that are shaping the data center electrical infrastructure are promoting greater efficiency, less demand for power and greater reliability. Modular electrical components and systems are playing an increasingly prominent role in data center design because they can be custom-designed to deliver optimal performance and are pretested for greater reliability. When designing or upgrading a data center, using prefabricated systems for the electrical infrastructure is cost-effective, simplifies installation and gives you total control over your power requirements.
If you want to learn more about the latest trends in data center design, be sure to download The Complete Guide to Modular Data Centers.