by Louis McGarry, Sales and Marketing Director, Centiel UK

The speed at which we create data is growing at an astonishing rate and the situation is only set to escalate.  Therefore, data centres are right to respond to anticipated future demand. Have you looked around a large data centre recently?  The sheer size and scale can be surprising. Generally, data centres are huge infrastructures that house megawatts of data.  In my experience, planning for the future is always ongoing, I often visit one data centre while another is under construction next door.

However, what also needs to be considered is the equally rapid reduction in IT power consumption.  Technology is constantly improving and becoming more efficient and so IT loads are actually shrinking faster than infrastructure seems to be growing.  This means that we are processing data at a more efficient rate. It isn’t unusual to see large data centres with a full day 2 infrastructure under-utilised.  I often see UPS systems designed to run at N+1 that in reality are running at N+3 and sometimes N+4. This happens when the actual load is far less than what was anticipated. Keeping that many UPS ‘awake’ is a significant financial burden not to mention the environmental impact.

So, how do you plan today for the data centres of tomorrow?

I believe there is a case to make for education here when it comes to right-sizing and the general management of equipment using ‘pay as you grow’ options but it will require some joined-up and clever thinking. Re-using, re-thinking, re-sizing and re-managing existing infrastructure could enable data centre owners to utilise existing equipment, reduce waste and overall expenditure. However, this requires input from experienced engineers who really know how much energy a server rack burns, suppliers with flexible product solutions and end-users and designers who understand the future requirements. Creating a community of experts at the project’s feasibility stage could play a significant role in answering this question.

While mega data centres will continue to house essential information, we also know that it makes logical and practical sense to filter and process data as close as possible to its source.  With this in mind, there will be a growing number of organisation specific micro data centres operating at The Edge.  Organisations today, are already starting to create their own micro data centres, using them to store and process data local to the organisation while the important data is moved offsite.   The micro or Edge data centres of the future will attach to offices and homes and their availability will need to be protected with the same resilience and availability. The good news is that for those considering creating an edge data centre, the infrastructure is within your control!  With an edge data centre, there is a real opportunity to apply this joined-up and clever thinking approach.

A well-designed micro data centre will last an organisation several generations of IT equipment whereas a poorly designed micro data centre could cost an organisation a lot of money in terms of poor availability, wasted infrastructure and running costs.  In terms of power protection, UPS systems which are too small will overload, compromising the availability, while those that are too large waste energy are costly to buy and to maintain.  When considering your design, consider a true Modular UPS system, that can be right-sized to your actual load and that allows for pay as you grow options: why pay for a large UPS when you don’t need it!?

There are other ways of saving space too.  It may be as simple as installing a rack independant UPS into existing rack space, for example.  This solution gives you the benefits of a modular UPS and can be easily integrated into your existing rack space, re-using your current infrastructure and improving resilience and availability. It may also be possible to make savings by using Li-ion batteries.

Although Li-ion is currently more expensive to purchase than traditional lead-acid (VRLA) batteries, there are opportunities to make savings.  In my experience most clients are looking for a 10 minute run time.  However, consider this: your generator should start within 30 seconds so why do you need a 10 minute run time?   VRLA batteries charge slowly so a 10 minute run time is usually necessary.  However, because the charge goes back into the Li-ion battery very quickly,  just a five minute run time is sufficient.   By halving the autonomy time, the number of batteries required is halved and the cost of purchase is also halved and further space is saved in the comms room too.

With the constant drive to reduce costs, avoid compromising on quality plus the inevitable concerns regarding environmental impact of any installation, now is the time to be smarter.  By working with trusted experts, it will be possible to tailor a UPS solution which is right-sized for your organisation in order to maximise the economic advantages and environmental benefits developments technology can now offer.

Original featured in Energy Management Magazine Jan 2020

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