Louis McGarry looks at how a flexible approach to Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) will sweeten the pill in our post COVID-19 world.

The Pandemic has undoubtedly changed the world in which we live. We have seen huge shifts in behaviour dramatically impacting on both our work and social lives. On a data level, data-based video and audio communications are now commonplace, even for the late majority. Online shopping, banking and even exercise classes, you name it, it’s now all possible and ‘normal’, virtually over the internet. As a result, the growth in data use seen over the past few years has necessarily accelerated even more rapidly. Transactional data on Amazon alone has increased dramatically due to the recently reported sales boom.

New World

These changes have all had knock-on effects: some sweeter than others. Some organisations have closed, some have made redundancies, some are consolidating operations. Others have been able to reduce office space to save money as they are being tempted towards a more permanent homeworking culture. Some colocation datacentres have lost clients who are struggling but have gained new innovative companies ready to take advantage of changed trading conditions. As human beings we will continue to adapt to survive. However, some have been left wondering when will life be sweet again?

If 2020 has shown us nothing else, it’s that no-one is quite sure what’s around the corner. Therefore, an agile approach to business is one that is most likely to have a successful outcome over the long-term. It’s the same for UPS solutions. Constant right-sizing and adopting a pay-as-you-grow infrastructure with a modular solution, means you can be flexible with whatever market conditions evolve and more importantly, you only pay for what you need. Think of it as pick-and-mix for your UPS needs!

Move With The Times

Generally, we find that UPS installations are designed and configured for a much greater load than is actually required. However, a system which is too large wastes energy, is inefficient and costly to run. It will also cost more than necessary to maintain due to its size. Over time, these costs mount up and impact on the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of a solution.

Installing a true modular UPS where you have the ability to use a fully rated frame or empty carcass, provides the option to only install the required number of modules to suit the actual load from day one, plus add more only when needed. This is because all the individual modules are a UPS in their own right, all containing a rectifier, inverter, and static switch and all operating online in parallel with each other. A truly modular UPS removes the need for a large initial investment in a stand-alone solution and organisations can scale as their load changes up or down.

Case In Point

For example we have just supplied a public sector customer needing to protect the power for an emergency services call centre with 2 x CumulusPower Frames each with 5 x IM25 (100kW N+1) with future growth capability of up to 200kW N+1 per frame. This set up essentially provides the capacity for the load to double in size in the future and new modules to be added only when required, minimising the CAPEX expenditure and the TCO.

With change comes opportunity. If organisations are looking to reduce office space, shrink, de-centralise, centralise or take some data storage in house, these new ways of working offer the chance to re-design and re-plan the UPS infrastructure to take advantage of a fully flexible solution at the same time.

By using standard frames which can accept the same physical size and power rating of UPS modules across facilities, hardware can even be moved and reutilised elsewhere. So, if the sweet spot suddenly shifts, resources can be reallocated as rapidly as needed. Modules can be redeployed between areas or facilities based on priority, to ensure load protection and redundancy is kept at the most critical locations. It also means, if a system needs to be maintained, modules can be ‘hot swapped’ avoiding any risk to the load (zero downtime!).

In this way an agile critical power solution can support an agile infrastructure environment, maximising availability while minimising costs at the same time.

Get Real

However, there’s no point in sugar-coating this, an agile modular concept relies on true modular UPS technology that is robust and of high enough quality to withstand being shipped and moved around regularly. Other brands of modular UPS are available, however, please keep in mind that not all modular UPS systems are designed to be hot swappable, with the flexibility to relocate and reutilise. As well as needing standardised frames and a robust, quality modular system, it is also necessary to manage the whole network closely too.

This approach also relies not just on a flexible UPS configuration, but a flexible battery set up too. You will also need a flexible distribution chain and a manufacturer who is experienced in delivering these types of ‘agile’ projects. We believe any UPS installation is only as good as the company that backs it: a company that enables the client to understand the full potential ability of the system and help them design the best solution for their particular circumstances.

Implementing an infrastructure with the capability to pay-as-you-grow and the ability to re-deploy modules according to load requirements will require some intelligent analysis. However, with expert advice from a trusted manufacturer with decades of experience of implementing the most efficient solutions such as our technical advisors at CENTIEL, it is possible to have the highest level of power protection in the most cost effective way.

Sugar Fix

So, to answer the question: it’s hard to know when life will be sweet again. It’s impossible to predict how the Pandemic has changed working practices for good. However, one thing is for certain, it will be the agile, adaptable and flexible organisations who will survive and thrive. For those taking the opportunity to re-design their UPS suite and go the true modular route, our advice is to be sure you are backed by a manufacturer who can be just as adaptable. And even one who shares your appetite for a sweeter outlook on life to come!

Article originally featured in Inside Networks Magazine September/October 2020

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