Electrical Engineering Feature: Thinking Space Smart

Leo Craig, general manager at Riello UPS explores how the increase in demand for colocation services worldwide will impact on the number of data centres globally. This in turn means that data centre owners should think smarter about space.

According to 451 Research the outsource of IT and data back-up is a strategy becoming increasingly common amongst UK businesses. As a result of this, the number of colocation data centres has increased 11 per cent in the last year alone.

 Whilst this growth is forecast to stay at this level through to 2018, there is no doubt that the data centre market will need to react accordingly. The research adds that there are more than 1,000 colocation providers being actively used across the globe and this number is set to increase.

 Flexibility of colocation data centres

 With many businesses moving away from building their own data centres due to the expense, many are instead looking to colocation services as a viable option. Colocation data centres therefore need to get ‘future proof’ – become more flexible and able to scale up and down to respond quickly to customers’ needs.

Many data centres are unable to predict fluctuations in demand for colocation space and so there is a requirement to have UPS equipment which is scalable to cope with this. Buying new UPS equipment can be costly but a new type of ‘modular’ design is emerging which allows the UPS to be grown efficiently rather than sustaining unused capacity.

The modular UPS  

Modular means that a UPS can be ‘rightsized’ according to the required load functionality, minimising up-front costs for capital expenditure and maximising efficiency. But it should be noted that although a modular UPS system can offer a more ‘future proof’ approach with right-sizing, no UPS should ever be 100 per cent loaded as this leaves no room for expansion and leads to increased component stress.

The modular design offers colocation data centres the maximum in availability, scalability, reliability and serviceability whilst also offering high efficiency, low cost of ownership and a high power density. In a modular UPS system, it is possible to build in a level of redundancy simply by connecting an additional UPS module.

Modular UPS systems give the colocation data centre the ability to expand vertically providing there is room within the existing cabinet for additional UPS modules. Alternatively, a modular component UPS system can expand horizontally with the addition of a further UPS cabinet. This approach can save valuable space within a data centre.

 Types of Modular UPS

Most manufacturers offer both standalone and modular component UPS systems which can be used to implement the ‘modular’ approach as recommended by the 2012 Best Practice Guide for the EU Code on Data Centres. The type of UPS adopted is dependent on where in the power distribution chain the UPS installation is to be made (ie. power plant room or colocation data centre floor) and the floor space in the data centre itself.

Standalone UPS may be floor standing or rack mounted and can generally be connected in a parallel/redundant N + X architecture to create systems up to 6 MVA. The typical individual on-line UPS ranges in size from 800kVA to as low as 1kVA and is supplied as a single cabinet. Modular component UPS systems comprise of standard UPS modules ranging from 10-50 kVA. Multiple modules can be connected in parallel within a single system cabinet. This achieves a higher kVA output and/or level of N + X redundancy.

As a modular solution, Riello UPS has the Multi Power UPS, a three-phase double conversion system scalable for any business requirements. Using up to 28 power modules of 42kW each, it gives complete scalability from 42kW to 1176kW.

According to global researchers Frost & Sullivan, the market for modular design and UPS is showing no sign of slowing with predictions that the market will grow to £260m (US $400m) by 2017, as space becomes the paramount concern with the increasing number of data centres in the world. The modular is a trend which is here to stay.