Data centre demand in 2020 leads execs to mull power upgrades for 2021

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More than half (53%) of data centre professionals are likely to consider power system upgrades going forward – as data centre demand exploded in 2020.

That is the key finding from a new report by ABB Power Conversion. The report, ‘Data Overload: Powering Data Centres in the New Normal’, was published last week and polled 150 US-based data centre professionals and explored long-term impacts to shape future operations.

96% of data centre professionals surveyed said demand on their data centre increased in 2020. As this publication has previously explored, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the increased need for remote working software and infrastructure, has led to greater demand on data centres.

This reliance on remote business continuity has led to concerns among respondents – and as the survey found, the pain points go beyond Covid. The report cited ‘the continued reliance on the cloud to power businesses’, ‘the rise of cloud-based business platforms’ and ‘the growth of enterprise cloud hyperscalers’ as concerning. Services and maintenance was the leading issue, cited by 34% of respondents, ahead of power usage (32%) and scalability (30%).

The report also explored specifics around consumption and power requirements. More than half (52%) of those polled said they were considering direct current (DC) power architectures to either upgrade or supplement their excisting power systems.

The benefits of a distributed DC architecture are explained in the study. “A distributed DC power architecture improves power distribution efficiency all the way from the grid to the rack by reducing the number of voltage conversions typically required,” the report authors noted. “It also places critical battery reserves close to the physical computing equipment.

“In this type of power architecture, redundant rectifiers and battery modules help provide high reliability, while the placement of the DC power equipment directly in the cabinet helps limit the effect of any failure to a single cabinet rather than the entire data hall served by a centralised UPS.”

The report’s key findings are naturally less than surprising given ABB’s line of business, yet demand continues to be needed. Jeff Schnitzer, president of ABB Power Conversion, said Covid had ‘fundamentally accelerated the concept of mission critical.’

“Power is the ultimate enabler,” he said in a statement. “Not only for rapidly scaling data centre operations to meet exponential demand, but for energising the ongoing digital transformation [which is] the beating heart of technology and smart societies of the future. Data centre power architectures are core components of this.”

The conclusion to the report outlined the next steps more explicitly. “Now more than ever, data centre operators are reimagining and reprioritizing the power architectures at the heart of their facilities as a key consideration for scale,” the report authors wrote.

“In the face of what are sure to be continuously increasing demands on capacity in 2021 and beyond, introducing a decentralised, distributed DC power architecture is a critical step toward developing data centre infrastructure with the flexibility to adapt and keep pace with what comes next.”

In December, Synergy Research noted that data centre M&A deals for 2020 beat $30 million, breaking all previous records for expenditure as well as equalling the record set in 2019 for number of deals.

You can read the full report here (pdf, email required).

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences and use-cases? The Data Centre Congress, 4th March 2021 is a free virtual event exploring the world of data centres. Learn more here and book your free ticket: https://datacentrecongress.com/

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