Data centers enable us to accomplish different tasks, from enabling smart home capabilities to making virtual calls possible. Their failure has significant impacts on productivity and our daily lives. Data center professionals are dedicated to ensuring that this industry has the power it needs to continue functioning. Gary Russinko, a Principal at kW Mission Critical Engineering, sat down with me for a chat during an ASCO Power Innovation Talk Webinar to talk about data center trends and challenges that the industry is currently facing.
Our conversation tackled the industry’s growth and its evolution. We discussed the following topics during our Data Center webinar episode:
- COVID and its impact
- Data Center Facility Design Strategies
- Sustainable Technologies
COVID and its Impact
Before the pandemic, market research company Technavio projected that the data center market would grow from 2019 to 2023 at a compound annual growth rate of 17%. When the lockdown began, businesses had to quickly adapt by digitizing their operations. This required enough data center space and capacity to carry out services smoothly.
Data centers responded by helping businesses accelerate their existing plans to expand their capacity for both infrastructure and staffing. Now, the industry is projected to grow at a rate of 21% from 2021 to 2025.
This demand increases the need for a reliable supply of power. However, power continuity isn’t code-mandated for the industry unless it’s for life safety and government functions such as 911 call centers. Nevertheless, more facilities are providing full continuity solutions due to service-level agreements, either through cloud-hosted IT services or by providing backup power for data centers such as generator transfer switches. Most public-facing businesses have agreements in place to secure continuity during outages, even without a regulatory compliance mandate.
All of these changes occurred while data centers needed to follow proper protocols to limit the spread of COVID-19. Onsite work required temperature checks, the wearing of face masks, and limiting the number of people allowed to enter a room simultaneously.
Data Center Facility Design Strategies
“The ability to adapt is one of the hallmarks that we see in the data center industry right now,” Russinko described the design strategy prevailing in the industry. Today, data center design is focusing on installing standardized equipment. This gives facilities a starting point that easily adapts to the needs of a growing business, making deployment easier and response faster.
As an example, Russinko described a shared power reserve with multiple primary systems. With a standard kit of parts, facilities can tailor their power system to fit a tenant’s requirements, be it a 2N system or an N+1 system, without needing to bring in entirely new infrastructure and equipment designs.
Redundancy for data centers can come in the form of redundant infrastructure, which includes redundant backup power solutions, or redundant applications, which refers to redundant facilities spread across a region, a nation, or the globe.
When asked which one is becoming more prevalent, Russinko answered, “It depends.” Infrastructure Redundancy is for applications that cannot tolerate any form of interruption, such as self-driving cars that require decentralized facilities. Application Redundancy is suitable for organizations that must limit operating costs and locate their data centers into larger centralized facilities.
Power usage by the information industry is increasing, which emphasizes the importance of incorporating sustainable practices and minimizing carbon footprint. There is also a continuing social pressure for businesses across industries to introduce more sustainable practices into their operations.
Big players such as Google are coming out with data centers powered by renewable energy sources including solar power or hydroelectricity.
In addition, companies are improving consumption efficiency by allowing racks to directly accept 480 volts, taking out the need for power distribution units to step down voltage. This adds 1% to consumption efficiency which may not sound like much, but it could mean significant savings for facilities whose electrical losses average at 8%. Mechanical solutions are also being made to suit the local climate of a specific data center, enabling facilities to squeeze every kilowatt out of mechanical cooling solutions and reduce the impact on the total mechanical load.
These efforts are also coupled with facilities adopting other measurements besides Power Usage Effectiveness for a more holistic approach to sustainability. More businesses are looking into Carbon Usage Effectiveness as they aim for a net-zero carbon footprint. This metric captures the impact of both electricity and water consumption, providing a more comprehensive look at a facility’s impact on the environment.
Industries, including data centers, are being changed by digitization. One way is through Data Center Infrastructure Management. This solution brings infrastructure data together, including data from Building Management Systems, Power Management Systems, and HVAC systems. It’s becoming a common feature in data centers, whether it be on a simple or complex level. This solution also enables facilities to integrate Artificial Intelligence and heavy computing in optimizing their operations using real-time information. Data centers can use this to integrate automation more quickly.
There is a growing demand for data centers across industries. Developments in data centers enabled them to help businesses stay afloat during a global pandemic, protect their workers, and reduce their carbon footprints.
In this fast-paced industry, there is value in reviewing progress and areas that need improvement. These conversations enable innovators and businesses to create strategies to achieve a better future for the industry.
Find additional information about backup power solutions on the ASCO Power Technologies website. It offers a library of resources including White Papers, Technical Briefs, Application Notes, and Case Studies.