Data Centre Review (DCR): Lithium-Ion Batteries Powering The Edge

Learn how UPS backed with lithium-ion batteries are perfect for powering the edge computing required by today’s digitally-driven society.

The final edition of Data Centre Review (DCR) magazine in 2021 incorporates two overarching themes. The first is the power of edge. Sustainability is the other focus.

We contribute an article that brings both concepts together: how lithium-ion UPS batteries have the perfect properties for deployment at the edge.

Edge Computing Challenges

Our article highlights some of the obstacles that must be overcome to make the most of edge. Enterprise, cloud and hyperscale data centres struggle with the near-instantaneous, low latency processing demanded by IoT and interconnected devices.

While processing at the edge is the answer, it relies on a network of micro data centres located in places perhaps not designed with the idea of servers and ancillary equipment in mind.

These micro data centres squeeze all the infrastructure into a much smaller footprint, often in a weather and fire-proof steel container. Space is obviously at a premium.

And as with any data centre, edge depends on a continuous supply of power. That makes a UPS system an essential part of any installation.

And while an edge facility isn’t anywhere near the scale of a multi-megawatt bit barn, the UPS and batteries can take up a considerable amount of the available space.

Lithium-Ion Alternative

We explain that UPSs are traditionally backed with big and bulky valve-regulated lead-acid (VRLA) to store reserve power.

VRLA are proven performers in data centres up and down the country. But at the edge where space is at a particular premium, are there any other options that are more suitable for edge applications?

Li-ion UPS batteries offer considerable trade-offs in terms of size, weight, performance, and maintenance. They can deliver the same power in 50-75% less space, have a much longer lifespan, and have a higher number of cycles.

Crucially, they can also operate safely in a far wider range of temperatures. Traditional VRLA runs at their best in controlled environments of 20-25oC. But lithium-ion are happy even at 40oC. This reduces the need for air conditioning and makes them suitable for a wider range of installation environments.

Lithium-ion batteries are still a more expensive initial option for use with a UPS. But these upfront costs are mitigated in the longer term by fewer replacements and service visits.

As we conclude, they’re a great option for space-restricted and environmentally challenging edge applications.