Last Updated on May 25, 2022 by Josh Mahan
Your business and its operational needs can’t afford to take such information about data centers or their power efficiency needs for granted. every concept of the data center had to incrementally increase in size, function, and power efficiency since the dawn of the internet age and the digital era as we know it.
The first wave of companies that took advantage of the business benefits of the internet in the 1990s took its data center transport abilities for granted. And those early companies didn’t consider the vast amounts of power that the data centers had to use to accommodate data transport requests.
Transporting and facilitating data on a global scale requires the implementation and use of cooling and chilling equipment. And it involves the sourcing of even more power to keep cooling and chilling equipment running.
The operational mission statement for your data center should demand that it runs in an eco-friendly manner, as self-sustainably as possible, and in a strategically power-efficient manner.
While the modern data center is a vast, globally reaching industry that is self-innovating all of the time, the need for better and new standards of power efficiency will always be at a premium.
To best appreciate the functional role of data center power, you must understand the terminology used for power management in a data center and colocation provider. You need to understand what kind of power you need for your data center needs to make proprietary decisions about efficiency.
If you need assistance setting up a data center or a colocation center, contact Alterum today.
The Evolution of the Data Center
The exponential growth and evolution of the modern data center are proportional to its need for more fiscally responsible energy efficiency.
At last count, over 7.2 million data centers were operating worldwide.
And the most extensive data center facilities in the world require the operation of tens of thousands of devices. So, energy use comes at a premium in the largest data center facilities.
The average large-scale and corporate data center requires over 100 megawatts to operate nominally. Over 80,000 American households can be powered with 100 megawatts of energy. And 43% of that energy is used to power the cooling equipment to prevent overheating and shutdowns. Another 43% of that energy estimate is used to power server applications and functions.
Data centers use electrical infrastructure to power servers and other equipment. In addition to the electrical plugs used for the servers and wiring to connect data centers to the municipal energy grid, many also contain infrastructure for backup power in case of outages. Backup generators, solar panels, and wind turbines are commonly found within data center environments.
Learn more: Data Center Infrastructure
Data centers use cooling equipment to transfer heat from computers, servers, and computer chips to save energy and keep equipment from overheating. In recent years, tech giant companies have begun investing in immersive supercooling technologies as the next-gen evolution of the traditional cooling tower. The cooling infrastructure found in data centers ranges from fans to full-blown HVAC systems. Most data centers also contain various infrastructure to ensure the proper function of the various cooling systems.
Learn more: Data Center Cooling
Over 42% of data centers are now heavily investing in renewable energy options as a green and financially friendly way to save money on energy.
Some industry experts believe that the traditional brick-and-mortar data may become nearly obsolete within the next decade or two.
More and more data transport transactions are being facilitated via the cloud, AI enabling, hyper-scale data centers, and other burgeoning data center innovations.
The point here is that without power, a data center is useless.
However, unless you are always brainstorming ways to efficiently manage the power needs of your data center, then your energy costs may impractically match or outweigh your profits.
So, here are some energy terms that you must be familiar with when contracting for data center power.
Data Center Power Terminology
The alternating current system, developed by Nikola Tesla, was implemented universally globally in the early 1900s. Tesla won a bitter rivalry with Thomas Edison to supply the world with a ubiquitous and readily accessible power method.
Whenever you plug a device into an electrical outlet, you are accessing alternating current electricity, also known as AC.
Alternating current energy allows you to access electricity on-demand as soon as you plug a device into a socket. When you access AC power, you gain access to currents and power such as 110 volts, 120 volts, 208 volts, 220 volts, and so on.
The flow of electric charge in AC currents manifests changes over time, hence the name alternating current. The power flow in AC power alternates between negative and positive of changing flows of electrons in the charge. So, an AC flow can either be in a negative or downward or positive, upward direction when it leaves the outlet and enters a plug.
AC power is created when alternators in an energy plant spin wire loops in an electromagnetic field. This process is also called a sinusoidal AC wave. Because of these qualities, AC power is stable enough to travel vast and long distances in wires and cables to be accessed via your outlet.
A lot of the equipment in a data center depends on the reliable energy afforded by AC power, like storage devices, rack-mounted servers, and colocation data center sites.
Direct current, as championed by Thomas Edison, is direct current energy. Unlike alternating current, direct current, or DC energy, flows only in one direction. Direct current can be created in fuel cells, solar cells, batteries, and various converted AC power generating alternators.
DC power is not capable of traversing long distances in cables and wires like AC power. It is also a lot cheaper to generate AC power relative to DC.
However, this does not mean one power method is better than the other – both have their benefits, drawbacks, and uses.
When it comes to data center power, DC energy powers the batteries, laptops, monitors, portable generators, smart devices, IT hardware, switches, network routers, networking gear, power banks, and any device that requires batteries.
DC energy is also primarily used in Uninterruptible Power Supply systems, also called UPS. Uninterruptible power supply systems use DC power to seamlessly transition power from local utility power grids to backup diesel generators if a data center experiences a power blackout.
A volt is a term referencing the electricity force potential between two places. The simplest way to think of volts or voltage is as a kind of pressure that pushes electricity from one source to another endpoint. The amount of voltage required to power a device depends on manufacturer specifications, location of the device, and the kind of device that needs to be powered.
Outlet and battery power are measured in volts.
Amps or amperes reference the actual electricity flowing through an outlet through your plug and wires and into your device. More technically, it’s the electromagnetic force existing between energy conductors ferrying electric current. Every device in a data center operates on a specific number of amperes.
A watt is a measurement of the rate of energy flow. Think of a watt as the amount of energy required for a device to turn on. The longer that you use a device in a data center, the more wattage is needed.
If data center power equipment has to multi-task assignments or solve complex equations requiring more computational power, more watts will have to be used.
Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE)
Power usage effectiveness, also known as PUE, is a metric that helps you implement changes to lower energy costs and increase operational efficiency. PUE reports can tell you the ratio of power allotted to a data center versus how much each piece of equipment uses. You can then calculate whether the power is being used efficiently enough.
A numerical value ranks PUE metrics. The lower your PUE number, the more likely your data center is to run efficiently. A good PUE is 1 or 1.5, in which all of the energy you use is being used efficiently. Any PUE number over 2.0 means a data center should review its efficiency practices.
Other Data Center Power Terms to Know
For managed service providers and data center companies that deliver a variety of services to their customers, data center redundancy is a crucial aspect of the core infrastructure. One of the first things to look at is the quality of its uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems—the devices that supply emergency power to a data center if its primary power source fails. Reliable data center facilities will have thorough auditing policies to ensure that their UPS systems are ready to take over at a moment’s notice.
Another key area to look at is whether a data center’s redundancy plans incorporate a fault tolerance or high availability strategy. Fault tolerance is what likely comes to mind when you think of redundancy—it involves two identical systems running together on a separate circuit. If one system fails, the backup power system takes over without sacrificing any uptime. These systems can be expensive and difficult to implement, leading to many facilities using high availability redundancies. Rather than mirroring systems, high availability utilizes a cluster of servers that have failover capabilities and restart applications as soon as any primary server crashes. They have more downtime but are easier to implement and often less vulnerable to software issues.
Because of the vast improvement in servers of the past decade, the way facilities measure their power capacity is changing. In the past, data center cabinets were designed for lower-power densities than today’s servers provide. Ten years ago, an average power density was around four to five kW power rack, but that number is closer to 15 to 20 kW per rack now and even higher in high-performing facilities.
With the higher power density also comes a higher need for more efficient cooling equipment in data centers. When looking at a data center, one of the most important things to consider is whether or not it makes efficient use of its available power—just because a facility claims to have high-density server deployments doesn’t mean that it gets the most available usage out of them.
Outdated or substandard cooling systems can prevent servers from running at their full potential. It could also result in software or hardware failures from overheating, which usually means more server downtime.
Service Level Agreement (SLA) Requirements
Every data center infrastructure needs to have a thorough understanding of its SLA—a document describing details about the services and uptime a data center promises to deliver, along with the penalties for failure to comply. An SLA is a legally binding document designed to help protect a data center customer’s data and assets.
The uptime guaranteed by the SLA indicates how often the servers must be up and running correctly. Most modern data centers provide at least a 99.9% uptime. The SLA will also lay out other responsibilities of the data center, including technical support, remuneration, and transparency.
Providing services through data centers isn’t always an easy task. Building up networks and implementing various systems within a data center takes unique expertise and planning that even some of the most experienced IT workers may not have. Qualified technicians in a data center can make integration and migration an easy, smooth experience for its customers and are an extremely valuable resource.
Another way that data centers can reduce the negative impacts of downtime is to provide remote technical support 24/7. These technicians are familiar with the data center environment and can typically address maintenance issues and emergencies more effectively than an external team. Service-based companies can benefit by having remote teams in place—it allows them to devote more resources to developing new offerings rather than dealing with troubleshooting on a regular basis.
Data Center Infrastructure Management
Understanding what goes on in a data center environment is crucial for companies that deliver services through those facilities. The knowledge of how the power and network performance get affected by changes in traffic volumes allows for efficient planning and more strategic asset deployment. Using the right data center infrastructure management software can help provide and analyze this information.
Security is also a concern for data centers. Sophisticated data center infrastructure management platforms can help make it easier to track your assets at all times and ensure that each piece of hardware and software is doing what they’re supposed to at all times. Companies hoping to utilize data center environments to either build or bundle services should have a thorough understanding of the safeguards put into place to protect against data breaches and cyberattacks.
Start Strategizing Your Data Center’s Energy Efficiency Goals Now
If you don’t consider energy efficiency for your data center power, you may spend more money supplying energy than generating profits for your business.
The amount of power used, how it is used, and the amount consumed by the equipment in a data center impact efficiency, productivity, and the bottom line.
Whether you’re designing a brand new data center infrastructure, updating your cooling systems, upgrading to a more reliable power solution, or anything in between, partnering with Alterum Technologies can be the difference between an average data center and an efficient, high-performing facility.
If you need help building a data center that meets all of your energy needs, contact Alterum Technologies today.