Industry View from Leo Craig, general manager at Riello UPS Ltd on Flexibility, efficiency and availability: The key factors for today’s modern data centres in this month’s Business Reporter.
The use of the internet now touches virtually every aspect of our lives, whether at home using social media, online shopping and banking, or even controlling the heating and lighting in our homes.
Many of us use apps that monitor our fitness regimes and how far we have walked or run, we use GPS for navigation and travel information and at work we literally rely on emails, websites and video conferencing throughout our working day. We live in a data-driven age that is run from our laptops, tablets and mobile phones.
“Few people realise that all this data has to be stored and processed somewhere up in the cloud,” says Leo Craig, general manager at Riello UPS. “The cloud is discussed as a mythical concept, but it’s actually very real, and otherwise known as a data centre or more precisely, a whole lot of data centres spread across the world. Organisations like Amazon, Apple and eBay and other large businesses have their own data centres, while other organisations will share purpose-built data centres. One thing is for sure, we will continue to see data centres grow in number in line with our ever-increasing need for data.”
Today’s data centres that handle all our internet requirements have to ensure that the service they offer is available 24/7 365 days a year. The one most crucial thing they need to achieve this is continuous reliable power, as they simply cannot afford a power cut to bring down their service. Imagine how much revenue a site such as Amazon would lose if they went offline for just an hour, and all those customers moved over to another online store?
To mitigate the potential of a power outage, all data centres use an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). Craig said: “A UPS can protect hardware such as computers, data centres, telecommunication equipment or other electrical equipment in the event of an unexpected power disruption.
“The UPS lies at the heart of the data centre and keeps not just the servers but the actual infrastructure in the building ticking over as well. While a UPS system primarily filters the line to ensure the power is ‘clean’ enough to prevent glitches, sags and surges, adding a UPS battery pack into the equation means that the power flow is also constant, meaning a critical load will still be supplied with power for a crucial period even if the mains fails.”
UPS systems have been around for years but, like everything in our modern world, they have been forced to become more energy efficient. The same applies to the data centre itself which faces increasing pressure to not only supply all the data requirements needed, but to also become more efficient because of the amount of power they consume in order to do this. In 2007, data centres in Western Europe alone used a huge 56TWh of power, and this figure is likely to almost double to 104TWh by 2020.
The modern data centre is really driven by three factors – flexibility, efficiency and availability. It needs the flexibility to change with consumer trends and demands, efficiency to ensure it maximises the energy being used to keep costs down and meet UK and EU green targets, and availability to ensure services continue no matter what.
The UPS plays an important role in all of these factors, while still having to meet the demands of the modern data centre. As the use of the cloud increases, so does the speed at which UPS technology is evolving to cope with this. Only a few years back, data centres were forced to install much bigger UPSs to meet capacity for years to come but now the focus is on more compact UPS systems and design. Riello UPS for example recently launched its multi power modular UPS, designed to achieve the highest levels of resilience and performance in space-conscious data centre environments.
With reports highlighting concerns about power supply shortages, many UPSs are now smart grid ready and can be integrated with the National Grid. This means that at times of peak demand, the UPS can actually go off grid (taking the strain off the networks) and use energy already stored up to keep the data centre running. Riello UPS has invested heavily in developing these types of smart grid ready products such as the Master HP, Master HE and Multi Sentry ranges. Technologies like this will be key to an energy efficient future in which businesses will have the power to adapt how they work and contribute to a greener economy.