Schneider Electric CTO Lays Out Solutions to Help Colocation Providers Deal with Growth, Maintain Efficiency

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As CTO for the IT Division, Schneider Electric’s Kevin Brown is charged with infusing innovation into all the products and services Schneider Electric delivers to its customers. So, it’s always a treat to hear him talk about the issues customers are facing and how the company plans to address them. If you don’t believe that, just ask him!

To no one’s surprise who has heard Kevin before, that’s exactly what he did during his presentation at the recent International Colocation Club event hosted by Schneider Electric in London. In less than 60 minutes, Kevin made clear not only how much has changed in the data center world in the last few years, but more importantly the kind of change that lay ahead and how best colocation providers can prepare for it.

In this post, I’ll present what I took away as the highlights from his presentation, but you can see the full version for yourself below.

How customer needs influenced data center innovation

The bulk of Kevin’s talk focused on the needs of larger, centralized data centers. He addressed the question of why air containment systems weren’t more widely used in data centers, given the proven efficiency they provide. For colocation companies, the answers included things like:

  • A need to minimize construction once tenants are in the data center
  • Difficulty in moves, adds, and changes
  • A desire to roll in fully configured racks
  • Cost and deployment issues

This research led to the development of Schneider Electric HyperPod, a self-contained system designed to deploy fully configured IT racks in increments of 8 to 12 racks. Without the need for on-site construction, HyperPod enables companies to gain all the efficiency of air containment systems while retaining the flexibility to quickly roll racks in and out.

HyperPod is particularly effective for colocation companies for a simple reason. “A colocation provider told us, ‘If I can get all the infrastructure ready for [a customer], there’s a benefit to me because I can start billing them immediately.’” He talked of a provider that had to wait 3 or 4 months from the time a customer signed a contract until it started billing because that’s how long it took to get all the infrastructure in place. That 3 to 4 months of revenue was enough to cost-justify the HyperPod solution, Kevin said.

He also touched on cooling strategies, noting the key driver for more modern, efficient cooling systems is a simple one: they enable 11% more power to be available for IT equipment, in the same space. “Just by implementing air economization, you free up power,” he said.

Perhaps some of the most exciting work going on has to do with power, including ways to deal with data centers that are becoming more “peaky” in terms of power use, meaning use can vary dramatically from day to day or even hour to hour. Emerging energy storage system (ESS) applications show promise in addressing the issue, Kevin said.

With the increased adoption of Lithium-ion battery technology inside UPS systems, for example, data centers can ride through peak power demand periods without relying on additional power from the grid, a concept known as peak shaving. For starters, that can help colocation companies save on demand charges and buy lower-cost power during periods of less demand.

A Li-ion battery solution that provides 2 to 3 hours of run time may even be able to replace generators in some applications, Kevin said. At the very least, it’s a discussion folks are starting to have. “The market is adopting Lithium-ion much faster than I would’ve guessed,” he noted.

Interconnected data centers win out

Finally, he talked about software as crucial to dealing with data centers that have more interaction with the utility grid and renewables, greater power variability with respect to IT, a mix of complex cooling architectures and more sites to manage in hybrid environments – all with the same or fewer staff.

“The only way I can address this level of complexity and this limitation of people and staff is by going to a cloud-based management system,” he said. The need to collect and analyze huge amounts of data is a problem tailor-made for the cloud.

That’s where the Schneider Electric EcoStruxure™ solution comes in. With modules that address buildings, IT and power considerations, EcoStruxure provides an architecture for collecting data from connected devices, providing edge control, and performs analytics to produce actionable insights from the data – a topic we covered in this blog on the increasing demand for data and data analytics.

After hearing Kevin and others speak at the Colo Club event, I’m convinced this is a time of unprecedented growth and opportunity for colocation providers, and we’re excited as a company to help customers take advantage of it. To delve deeper into the technologies Kevin talked about, click be sure to check out his full presentation on how colocation providers can leverage IoT solutions within their data center architecture.

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