The key question that any datacentre manager asks is: ‘how can you make the next ten years more cost effective than the last’?   Running a more efficient operation means higher levels of profitability.  A better bottom line means increased budgets to play with for further investment and expansion plus the opportunity to work with a larger, more diverse client base.   Increased efficiencies can also result in reducing carbon footprints for the benefit of our whole planet.

To take a look into the future with insight, we need to look at the past.  All the information should be easily available for analysis.

Data centre overheads are influenced by multiple factors, but for the UPS system, they need to include the purchase price of any new equipment, maintenance packages and remedials plus energy bills for cooling batteries which can be significant when calculated over time.

While some organisations are overpaying for items like maintenance, the vast majority understand what realistic budgets should look like.   However, to be more cost-efficient over the next decade, a more flexible approach to the future is required.

What do I mean by this?   Well, updating obsolete UPS equipment can certainly save on escalating repair bills over time.  However, simply replacing like-for-like is rarely the best option.  The key is understanding the load profile of the past, the present and future, and ensuring any UPS solution can be flexible enough to protect the critical power in both the short and long term, without incurring any unnecessary costs.

Infrastructure

More often than not, we find datacentres have historically purchased oversized UPS systems.  Oversized systems cost more to purchase, install, run and ultimately more to maintain.  Along with the associated batteries, they also take up far more space which could be being used for other revenue generating avenues.

Therefore, it is necessary to calculate the size of the UPS needed in relation to the actual load requirement.  By adding a scalable true modular UPS, a critical power protection system can be both right-sized, flexible and futureproofed for the short and long-term.  Modules can easily be added on a pay-as-you-grow basis ensuring the system continues to match actual load requirements from day one, day two and as we step far into the future.

Successful rightsizing necessitates the correct infrastructure to be put in place from the outset.  In this way, a modular, flexible, well specified UPS can ensure any growth in power protection requirements can be accommodated easily.  By installing a UPS frame which can, for example, accommodate up to ten UPS modules but can initially house just two, means you have the flexibility to add additional UPS modules when needed.

The historic behaviour of your load profile could help you understand your future load increases or decreases, and therefore can help you select the right path to your power protection.  Using a modular approach allows you to tailor your UPS system and select the appropriate module rating to best suit your load changes. It can also help manage expenditure.  For installations with a lower growth profile, adding a 20kW module at a time is much less expensive than buying one which is double the size.  As well as reducing CapEx, a 20kW module only weighs around 25 kilos, meaning that it is lightweight and easy to exchange or redeploy to another area of the facility if needed.

True Modular UPS systems are designed with intelligent technology that uses as many modules as needed to match the load demand. This Maximum Efficiency Management (MEM) mode looks for the most optimised energy efficient point of your overall system and uses active-sleep modules to ensure the system is always operating at its maximum efficiency. Put simply, as the load decreases modules hibernate, and when the load increases the modules become instantly available, while maintaining the overall system resilience.  With legacy or oversized systems optimum efficiencies are generally at the upper end of the system’s capacity, so when being underutilised they waste energy and can have a significant impact on OpEX.

When replacing a system, right-sizing is not just about the UPS. Battery bank configurations should also be optimised and it is likely that if a legacy UPS was over-sized so was the battery requirement. Originally a system may have been purchased with a runtime designed for just minutes. However, as a result of system over-sizing, there may now be hours that are not needed.

When right-sizing a UPS, it is important that the batteries are also right-sized.   Specify the actual runtime requirement to your new supplier as the price of a like-for-like battery replacement could equate to the price of a new UPS.

As a bi-product of right-sizing your battery configuration you will also make savings when it comes to valuable floor-space. You could take this a stage further by looking into other available battery options such as li-ion.

Li-ion batteries, while more expensive to purchase can last twice as long as VRLA and don’t require the same cooling.  They also take up much less room.  For facilities with limited room or datacentres which want to sell that space to generate additional revenue, they can offer a potentially more efficient approach over a 20-year period.

In this way, numerous small but carefully calculated steps can reduce both CapEx and OpEx and result in a more efficient overall system.

Maintenance

UPS systems require regular maintenance checks which should be undertaken by factory trained specialists.  These checks ensure that internal components are monitored for signs of aging and preventative actions can be taken before failures occur, removing risk and improving overall system availability.

Availability is the most important aspect of your UPS system; every second that your UPS is unavailable may cause significant financial losses.  Maintenance and support packages are essential to ensure your system remains available and shouldn’t just be about Preventative Maintenance Visits (PMV).   It should also include valuable 24/7/365 technical support, guaranteed response time and first level response training.

The architecture of true modular UPS systems has also been designed with self-isolation and self-diagnostic capability. Technical support and first-level response training can give clients the ability to understand why their system is in alarm and to exchange UPS modules safely in a live system (safe-hot-swap) when needed.

Keeping service modules on site can increase availability further as the mean time to repair (MTTR) is only as long as the time it takes for you to make the exchange.  Clients can be given the flexibility to regain resilience in their own system.

I know it’s controversial to say, but a deeper understanding and closer management of your own systems can be advantageous and removes the fear factor surrounding the equipment protecting critical loads. The latest UPS technology has been designed to be user friendly, which means that the maintenance and support packages should also be the same.

Our maintenance and support packages are tailored specifically to individual clients and offer more value for money as they are more than just a PMV.

Review and Plan

By looking at the past and re-thinking the decade in detail, it is possible to ensure the next ten years are more efficient and cost effective.  Design UPS systems with flexibility in mind for future capacity but only buy what’s needed for day one and have a plan in place to scale up as and when needed.  Combine this with education and tailored maintenance packages and we can positively influence the future.

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