Ed Spears 2018-01-10 11:09:55
In many ways, data center power management equipment isn’t all that different from your vehicle. If you routinely check under the hood, replace vital fluids, and rotate the tires, it’s reasonable to expect that an automobile will last 15 to 20 years. Power backup equipment, including a properly serviced uninterruptible power system (UPS), is similar in this regard. But what if you could slide behind the wheel of a brand new car that would not only be equipped with all the latest bells and whistles, but also offered a smoother ride and significantly better gas mileage? If your car isn’t obsolete, then the improvements in technology may not be worth the upgrade. But if that new vehicle could put money in your pocket, the choice becomes much more obvious. While not likely with an automobile, when you consider the advancements in power protection technology, the prospect of a new UPS creating a financial return for your organization is very real. Considering How Much a Rack is Worth While exact figures vary by environment, for the purpose of this article, let’s consider a set of server racks with a 400-kW power requirement that generates revenue of $800 per server per month. This revenue would be typical for a multi-tenant, hyperscale or cloud services data center provider that features support services for its clients’ servers. It’s important to note that this represents a conservative estimate, as many hosting providers charge as much as $1,300 per server. With that in mind, we will focus on three primary benefits that also contribute to revenue generation: power factor, efficiency, and footprint. Power Factor Power factor is defined as the ratio of real power used to do work and the apparent power supplied to the circuit. It is presented in values ranging from 0 to 1. Newer UPSs can offer a power factor rating of 1.0 or 100%, also known as unity power factor, which is a key consideration in modern data centers where the power factor required tends to be high. The kW and kVA ratings on a piece of equipment are often very close, leading some people to mistakenly interchange the two. This is undesirable because it can lead to the creation of “phantom” capacity, resulting in UPS overload. Putting this into perspective, a legacy 400-kVA UPS with a .9 power factor rating would deliver 360 kW of real power to support 900 servers. However, a newer 400-kVA UPS offering a unity power rating would power 1,000 servers with its 400 kW of real power. The benefit of gaining that extra 40 kW of real power from a newer UPS would enable hosting providers to support an additional 100 servers, resulting in a revenue increase of $80,000 per month, or $960,000 per year. And consider this: by deploying a UPS offering 100% real power, colocation providers charging $1,300 per server would gain revenue of more than $1.5 million annually for those 100 additional servers. Efficiency Today, the annual cost of electricity to run a modern data center can equal or exceed the capital cost of the equipment within it. As a result, high-efficiency UPSs have been capturing increasing attention. Indeed, the financial implications of energy efficiency are significant: if just half of recommended best practices were adopted, US data centers could slash their electricity consumption by as much as 40%, representing $3.8 billion in savings—according to a 2014 brief from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Newer UPS models boast considerably higher efficiency ratings than their legacy counterparts, and increases of as little as 3% translate to hefty revenue boosts if freed up power accommodates additional servers. Considering our working server model, a newer 400-kVA UPS operating at 97% efficiency will realize an annual power and cooling savings of 21 kW—or more than $18,000—compared to the same size legacy UPS, which operates at 94% efficiency. It’s important to note that modern UPSs with energy saving modes like Eaton’s Energy Saver System have leading efficiency up to 99% even at 30% loads, which is common in data center environments and where traditional UPS efficiency significantly drops. This dramatically reduces heat loss and actually improves reliability of the UPS electronics. The 3% efficiency benefit doesn’t just translate to utility cost savings; it also potentially frees up power for an additional 52 servers, and similar to the power factor analysis above, enables hosting providers to bolster monthly revenue anywhere from $41,600 to $67,600. And ESS-mode operation boosts their savings even more. Footprint In recent years, power protection has been gradually moving beyond the basement and onto the data center floor. With best practices now recommending that UPSs be situated as close as possible to the mission-critical devices they support, power protection solutions are becoming increasingly common in the white space, making UPS footprint more important than ever. Regardless, if you continue to place your UPSs in the traditional gray space, a smaller UPS allows you to design your facility with smaller electrical rooms and have more space available in the white space for money-generating equipment. Every square foot worth of saved space translates to increased revenue opportunities; it’s important to understand the financial benefit of replacing a legacy UPS with a new unity factor model of the same kVA rating. The smaller footprint of the new UPS and its ancillary cabinets would free up 15.5 valuable square feet—room for up to two more racks. Assuming every 6 feet of space creates room for one additional rack, an organization could add anywhere from 20 to 52 servers depending on the environment by upgrading its UPS. Based on our working model of $800 per server, the 6 feet saved represents new revenue ranging from $16,000 to more than $40,000 more per month per rack. While your existing data center UPS still may have viable mileage remaining, advancements in new UPS technology make a compelling case for upgrading. Clear and considerable revenue opportunities can be realized by deploying a new UPS, specifically in the areas of power factor, efficiency, and footprint. A modern design can even help you achieve the revenue benefits of all three of these factors, further maximizing monetary gains. DE Ed Spears is a product marketing manager in Eaton’s Critical Power Solutions Division in Raleigh, NC.
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