A recent report on DC power revealed some interesting trends related to data center operations and power. Learn what data center conditions look like today and going forward.
Data center solutions provider ABB Power Conversion recently released a detailed report regarding data center power and operations. Here are some key findings:
- 96% of U.S. data center professionals reported that demand on their data center increased during 2020.
- Cloud-based applications for financial and banking services, machine-to-machine Internet of Things applications and telecom connectivity were key drivers of the demand increases put on data centers in 2020.
- Just over a third of data center professionals surveyed who have seen an increase in demand in 2020 leveraged stranded white space, while a quarter increased usable rack or floor space.
- Service and maintenance is the top data center power concern for 2021, followed by power usage and scalability.
- Half of U.S. data center professionals are likely to consider power system upgrades to meet increased data center demands in 2021 and beyond. Fifty-two percent of data center professionals consider DC power as a right-fit solution for upgrading power systems.
- A quarter of data center professionals are unlikely to build new space and will instead try to maximize their current facilities to meet demands.
I spoke with Jeff Schnitzer, president at ABB Power Conversion, to discuss the report further.
Scott Matteson: Did dedicated cloud data center usage increase in 2020?
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Jeff Schnitzer: As seen in the report, 96% of U.S. data center professionals reported that demand on their data center increased during 2020. While we can’t say for certain that dedicated cloud data center usage increased in 2020, it’s likely that all types of data centers were utilized to support a world gone remote.
In fact, according to an IEA report, between February and mid-April 2020, global internet traffic surged by 40 percent. Further, remote collaboration tool usage surged, with Slack seeing customer growth of 35 percent in 2020 year-over-year. Today, one thing appears clear: Business, and life, is going to look a lot different moving forward, as digital tools such as video conferencing and virtual services like telehealth have become essential parts of our lives. And with this increased reliance on digital tools like these, the cloud itself—and the solutions it enables—has become more mission-critical than ever.
Not surprisingly, the impact of this digital transformation amplifies a broader set of challenges for data center operations. First, how can data centers maintain resiliency, efficiency and reliability amid the unprecedented and ever-growing demand for cloud-based, business-critical applications? Second, how can data centers ensure their facilities are well prepared to scale operations in response to rapidly changing and continuously increasing capacity demands? Responding to these challenges requires that data center operators attend to the critical role power architectures play as potentially enabling or limiting factors for expanding data center capacity.
Scott Matteson: What are some examples of service and maintenance issues or problems and recommended solutions?
Jeff Schnitzer: Data center maintenance can vary depending on the type of data center environment and infrastructure.
Regardless of these variables, though, data center service and maintenance are essential. Not only to ensure reliable, 24×7 operation but also as a long-term cost-savings measure and a way to make operations more efficient and sustainable.
The best way ensure uptime is to work with a trusted partner that knows your equipment inside and out, your facility and its needs, and understands your customers’ requirements as well as trends that may influence future challenges and needs. Looking at power equipment through a life-cycle lens instead of a one-time install will help ensure the power solutions can meet a data centers’ current and future needs. This includes consulting with the power equipment provider early on in the build process to evaluate the requirements and challenges at hand and leveraging their expertise as well as their access to spare and replacement parts and equipment to keep systems up and running 24×7.
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Because at the end of the day, that’s what matters most. It may also make sense to look at service-level agreements as part of your initial investment (along with equipment) to help provide added peace of mind—and to best optimize the long-term operating expenses of your power system.
In addition, there are many technologies to help extend data center life cycles and help ensure uptime. For example, implementing a predictive maintenance-based service strategy. By utilizing innovative sensor technology and web-based platforms, data center operators can leverage remote monitoring, performance predicting, and they can better control and optimize their assets.
Scott Matteson: “Half of U.S. data center professionals are likely to consider power system upgrades to meet increased data center demands in 2021 and beyond.” What sort of investments will that entail?
Jeff Schnitzer: There are a lot of factors to consider when looking at the investment that might be needed, especially since data centers have their own unique set of needs. Investments will depend on current infrastructure, current and future demand, and capacity projections, and if operators are looking to upgrade or supplement existing facilities and equipment or if they are considering new, greenfield builds to meet future needs.
Data centers are increasingly reliant on on-site backup power systems to help ensure reliable, consistent power, 24/7, as even a millisecond of downtime can be detrimental to their and their customers’ operations. There are a number of options to consider when it comes to power upgrades, and the right choice will ultimately come down to what will best meet their specific needs.
For instance, many data center operators are looking for ways to add redundancy and scalability, especially in the aftermath of the 2020 demand spike driven by the global pandemic, while also remaining highly focused on efficiency and sustainability. So, we’re seeing increased interest in distributed DC power architectures, which can directly connect the protected AC feed to the IT rack or cabinet, where smaller, more power-dense batteries and rectifiers are housed directly inside along with the IT equipment. This approach helps reduce the number of power conversion steps required to step down utility power to the servers and routers and enables a more modular, scalable approach to meeting increased capacity demands.
Scott Matteson: “A quarter of data center professionals are unlikely to build new space and will instead try to maximize their current facilities to meet demands.” Do you have any recommendations for how they can go about this? What are the unique advantages of distributed DC power architecture?
Jeff Schnitzer: These past 12 months have spurred record spending on data centers, and we don’t see that slowing down anytime soon. New research shows the total investment in data centers is expected to increase from $244.74 billion in 2019 to $432.14 billion in 2025.
For data center operators, investing in the right power architecture can make or break the long-term viability, and scalability, of their data centers. Because of this, current and future power architectures are worth examining when data center operators are looking to maximize current facilities to meet increased demand.
Whether they determine AC or DC…