At the end of every year, people share predictions about the next big thing for the coming year. They examine trends and sales forecasts then form their opinions and throw the dice. After all, isn’t a prediction just an informed gamble?
Instead of gambling, I’d rather reflect on 2018 and comment on what Schneider is working on for 2019. Let’s usher in the new year with a roadmap of the technology and solutions we are offering and implementing to make business simpler and better for our customers.
Here’s my preview for how we will be driving success for clients as we continue to perfect our brave new age of digital transformation this year, next year, and every year that follows.
Battery Energy Storage Systems
One trend we are seeing a lot of is decarbonization and it has driven the proliferation of renewable energy derived from wind and solar. For the grid to remain stable, we need the addition of energy storage. Benefits of energy storage include the ability to smooth out the inevitable fluctuations from the solar array for microgrids and the opportunity to store energy to be accessed at an optimal time, whether for financial benefits or to secure resilience. There are different types of energy storage but battery energy storage is becoming the most economically viable, thanks largely to the buildout of lithium ion batteries for the electric vehicle market keeping down the cost of these batteries for use in stationary energy storage.
In the first quarter of 2019, Schneider Electric’s brand new Battery Energy Storage System, known as BESS, will have its first installation as part of the indoor farming company Bowery Farming. We are working with Scale Microgrid Solutions to design, engineer, and build a new microgrid for Bowery’s newly commissioned facility in New Jersey, which will be the most technologically sophisticated commercial farm on the planet.
A fully self-contained solution built upon a flexible, scalable, and highly efficient architecture, BESS is a Distributed Energy Resource (DER) that can decouple energy production from energy consumption. By storing energy through BESS, which is quickly becoming a fundamental component of a microgrid, a customer can determine how best to minimize costs, optimize sustainable energy consumption, and generate revenue. A revenue generating asset, the Bowery Farm system will use multiple DERs, including a rooftop solar array, a natural gas generator equipped with advanced emissions control technologies, and BESS interconnected in a behind-the-meter configuration.
It is likely you will see more from us in battery energy storage as customers are interested in BESS as a possible replacement for generators due to environmental and noise concerns and we are actively investigating this as an option. Also li-ion is becoming the preferred battery technology for data centers, offering lower total cost of ownership and increased safety and reliability compared to VRLA batteries.
Micro Data Centers
This year, I’ve talked often about how the industry needs to work together in new ways – openly and collaboratively – to help make edge computing a reality. One area where we are making impressive progress on this front is Micro Data Centers, which in many ways are yesterday’s ‘wiring closets’ and ‘server rooms’ that have evolved to become more mission critical.
At Schneider, we’re working with HPE, Scale Computing, StorMagic, Dell EMC, and others to create Micro Data Centers that provide fast and secure access to data and compute resources. Customizable, scalable, and highly secure, they include all necessary power, cooling, security, and management tools, and they ship fully integrated and configured. Schneider recently achieved Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) Pre-rack and Ship Certification, expanding certification from one standard size to the entire NetShelter SX product line with Shock Packaging, providing us with more options for greater flexibility and faster deployment at the edge.
By offering what is an essentially standardized, remotely maintained approach, Micro Data Centers allow customers to plug and play. This is especially beneficial in fields with hundreds or thousands of edge computing sites, like retail and banking. With HPE, we have integrated our supply chains and are providing edge Micro Data Center solutions that can run cloud-based Data Center Infrastructure Management, commonly known as DCIM. And, the turnkey Micro Data Center in a Box from APC by Schneider and Scale Computing can fit any need for any environment.
With the proliferation of edge networks and Micro Data Centers comes a proliferation of threats ranging from smoke and fire to theft and easy access to the physical infrastructure. That is why, at the start of the new year, we will announce an overhaul of our APC flagship NetBotz® products to bring enhanced monitoring, management, and control to IT environments.
With the widest selection of Micro Data Centers on the market and the launch of enhanced NetBotz products, Schneider will continue to invest and bring new partnerships and features to simplify the planning, installing, and operating of Micro Data Center solutions to help make edge computing a reality.
At Schneider, our game-changing platform EcoStruxure™ is a major player in the data center world. A notable example of this is Schneider’s partnership with New Zealand global logistics giant Mainfreight. Schneider and Mainfreight worked together to deploy a modular EcoStruxure™ architected data center in less than three months. Yes, you read that right – in less than three months.
Logistics is a data intensive business and Mainfreight wanted to efficiently support increasing data storage and analytics needs along with plans for further global expansion. To accomplish this, company leadership invested in constructing a new, state-of-the-art data center to house its critical infrastructure and provide visibility into its performance and efficiency.
Schneider’s EcoStruxure IT™ software provided the remote monitoring and analytics for Mainfreight to have full visibility into the performance and efficiency of the data center. Mainfreight has 239 branches across 21 countries so the software is particularly beneficial on operations, helping to monitor, manage, and maintain remote data centers, especially where IT staff is unavailable.
Mainfreight chose the EcoStruxure solution from Schneider so it could go beyond modernizing systems to being well prepared for increased demand and technological advances, such as the option to add more batteries to the UPS, the ability to expand power and cooling, and support for data storage and analytics needs. And when pressed with a tight deadline, Mainfreight and Schneider worked together to overcome construction challenges and build a data center ahead of schedule. With a modular approach that is fast and scalable, Mainfreight achieved all the data storage and compute power it needed.
Our priorities for the new year include more investment in EcoStruxure IT with an increased focus on analytics and cloud-based management to become even more predictive.
With its breakthrough, flexible design, and capacity to reduce CapEx by up to 15 percent, HyperPod is the only IT-Pod Frame solution available in the data center market. HyperPod was recently named Hyper-convergence Innovation of the Year for the second consecutive year at the SVC Awards. It allows customers to implement efficient data centers while avoiding costly and time-consuming construction and gives great flexibility to roll racks in and out without disrupting the infrastructure. HyperPod was recently employed as an integral part of an EcoStruxure solution by Digital Realty, a $25 billion owner, operator, and developer of data center solutions with more than 170 properties globally.
As Digital Realty continued to expand its footprint, it was critical that everything from system architecture to end-user reporting had to be consistent across all sites. Like most companies, Digital Realty had a variety of equipment and software and needed the ability to integrate them all into one large solution with global consistency and scale. A customized EcoStruxure solution provided a unified, efficient way to monitor and control facilities anywhere in the world — all through a single pane of glass. As part of the solution, Digital Realty uses HyperPod’s integrated rack systems, giving the company the flexibility to fit customers’ varied configurations with reduced installation times and faster deployment.
Through its partnership with Schneider Electric, Digital Realty has been able to improve operational visibility, enhance reporting, and optimize facility control while capturing nearly $1 million in annual savings. With the right tools to successfully execute their vision, site operators can run their data centers efficiently and consistently across the globe.
Of course, we will continue to work on simplifying white space build outs with HyperPod and we believe we’re on the right track.
So, the Next Big Thing in Data Center Management is Already Here at Schneider Electric
Thanks to innovative products and solutions, breakthrough technology, and new partnerships from Schneider, we look forward to driving success for our customers in 2019 and beyond.
Happy New Year from all of us at Schneider Electric.