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The Data Center Imperative: How Companies Can Improve Power and Energy Efficiency in a Post-Covid World

Threats to human life and livelihoods are partly about perception. How serious is the threat? Is it immediate, or a long-term threat? How likely is it to happen? Can we take action to ease the damage caused if the worst does happen?

By focusing on one threat, it is easy to temporarily forget about other global risks, even though they haven’t receded. For much of this year, the Covid-19 pandemic has been pretty much the only global threat discussed by governments, business and the public.

That is understandable but it doesn’t mean that other threats, such as climate change, have gone away. In the longer-term, most experts agree that climate change will almost certainly be a far more serious threat to humans and the planet than Covid-19.

Cut Costs and Increase Energy Efficiency (Especially for Data Centers)

As lockdowns are slowly lifted, many economies are expected to go into sharp and possibly prolonged recession. Companies and public-sector organizations will be under pressure to cut costs by increasing efficiency, while also meeting increasingly tough targets for energy efficiency.

More organisations are committing to reducing their carbon emissions or even, like Microsoft,  which has promised to become carbon ”negative” by 2030 meaning that the software company will remove more carbon from the atmosphere than it produces. Data centers account for an estimated one per cent of global electricity use.

Energy efficiency will need to be achieved in a tough economic climate in which company spending, including on IT, will be scrutinized even closer than usual. Worldwide IT spending will fall by 5.1% to $2.25 trillion in 2020, according to IDC although spending on IT infrastructure, is still expected to increase.

How can companies save money, do the perennial “more for less”, and improve their carbon footprint? Data centers and UPS systems are an important part of the solution.

The Data Center Trade Off

For the past few decades, data center operators have faced a trade-off when deciding on their type of UPS.

Option one: The highest quality and most reliable supply of electricity.

This technology is known as “double conversion”. As the name suggests it converts AC power into DC power and back again to ensure the highest quality and most reliable supply of electricity.

It’s the most common UPS technology. main advantage is that it can achieve the highest level of availability of power.

Option two: Less reliable power, cheaper to operate

A type of UPS known as “eco mode”. It uses less energy than double conversion mode, typically a couple of percent less, but its power supply is typically less reliable.

In data centers, the loss of power for even a few milliseconds can cause problems in an IT system’s performance, taking down a service or slowing the performance of servers. Clearly, then, a few percentage points of different in performance, is significant.

Power outages

The cost of data center downtimes is increasing, according to research published in 2016 by Ponemon Institute, and sponsored by Vertiv. Between 2010 and 2016 the cost of downtime increased by 38%, the research found. If that long-term trend continues, in a few years, the average cost of a data center outage may reach $1 million if it is not there already.Data_Center_Downtime_Blog_Chart_-_800_x_600_311951_0.pngThe failure of a UPS was the most was the most common cause of unplanned data center outages, accounting for one in four of them, according to the Ponemon research. There must be a better way. Surely data centers should be able to maximise the efficient and reliable supply of power while minimising energy costs? This is one reason why, last year, we added a new feature for some of our UPS products.

Best of both worlds

The feature, called “Dynamic Online”[1] enables energy efficiency of up to 99%  without sacrificing availability to the load. The 99% energy efficiency compares to 94% energy efficiency for a typical older UPS system and 97% for a more recent one.

The savings add up meaning that the system can pays for itself in energy savings alone over 5 years.[2] Customers using Dynamic Online mode are already saving the equivalent amount of energy that would be emitted by driving 28 times around the equator using an electric car.

You can read more about the energy efficiency benefits of our Dynamic Online technology in a White Paper we published: ‘High efficiency modes of operation’

We believe that the Dynamic Online mode is the most important advance in performance and energy efficiency for data center customers since Lithium Ion batteries as an emergency power supply about five years ago.

Our new UPS feature will also help support other long-tern trends, including the rollout of technologies such as fifth-generation mobile phone networks, cloud computing and edge computing.

The world may be tentatively emerging from Covid-19 but plenty of other long-term challenges, such as climate change, remain. A UPS that delivers maximum power performance and energy efficiency is an important step forward for company balance sheets and the planet in our economically uncertain time.

[1] Now available in our Liebert Trinergy Cube and Liebert EXL S1 products

[2] Over five years, a 1000 kVA Liebert EXL S1 can save more than $230,000 over a same-capacity 94 percent efficient UPS system and more than $140,000 over a same-capacity 97 percent efficient UPS system.

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