Data centers are proliferating at an incredible rate as the demand for storage tries to keep pace with society’s capacity to create data. Technology at every level (business, government, and personal) is producing exponentially more data every year, and those users also expect to be able to access it on demand. The US is a global leader in data centers -- there are currently over 5,000 data centers, with tens of billions being invested in thousands more.
The energy demands for data centers are a critical constraint on their growth. Not only do data centers require extensive power to run the servers and their cooling systems, but also their networking equipment, storage systems, and security systems. Current demand is nearly 4,000MW, and in data center hubs, such as Northern Virginia and Silicon Valley, these supply issues are threatening to put a cap on growth.
Data centers are critical in providing virtually all online services and run 24/7, but power shortages can cause downtime and catastrophic equipment loss. In this blog, we’ll examine why backup critical power is essential for a data center market in danger of overheating.
What’s Driving the Demand for Data Centers?
In recent years, there has been an incredible surge in data creation, with the average person creating 1.7 MB per second. A large amount of modern life, including big data analytics, communications, artificial intelligence, work, and entertainment, rely on online data services to create, send, receive, store, and analyze data from myriad sources. By 2025, there will be an estimated 175 zettabytes, or 175 trillion gigabytes, in the world, much of which will be stored in data centers for easy access.
The advanced technologies required to ingest, curate, and navigate this mass of data are also key to the growth of data centers, where complex server arrangements and intricate network systems help to drive economies of scale, increasing speed and efficiency. These all have high power demands and necessitate backup critical power to ensure systems can stay running.
The Role of Backup Critical Power Packages for Data Centers
Along with underpinning much of modern personal and professional life, there is also an expectation of low latency and 24/7 provision of online services. This zero downtime expectation means that anything less leads to revenue loss, customer dissatisfaction, and reputational damage. However, potential losses are not only on the revenue side; extensive power outages without backup power can lead to extreme overheating and destruction of servers and chips, with high replacement costs in terms of material, time, and expertise.
To ensure zero downtime, data centers must build an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) into their power management systems. A UPS system kicks in immediately to pick up critical loads, giving the rest of a backup critical power package time to start up and take over. In situations of extended blackouts, the backup generators for a data center need to be able to run for days.
Pairing UPS systems with generators in a data center’s backup critical power package ensures seamless transition and continuous power, safeguarding against revenue loss and potential replacement costs. Power distribution units (PDUs) are also built into these systems to give more efficient power delivery and built-in surge protection.
The Business Case for Backup Critical Power Packages
Data center downtime is an expensive event, with costs running up to $11,000 per minute and average events costing nearly $500,000 based on a minimum 2,500-square-foot data center. These costs mainly derive from business disruption, lost revenue, and hampered end-user productivity. The type of energy outage also contributes significantly to the costs, with a UPS-related failure, meaning there was no smooth transition to backup power, costing the most (on average, nearly $690,000).
Depending on the nature and size of the business and the duration of the power outage, costs could run to millions of dollars, making the business case for a backup critical power package an obvious one in terms of financial protection. However, also to be noted is the effect of power outages on your reputation and how much trust is built by consistent service and having a seamless UPS backup power package in place. This is particularly important when supporting critical or high-value services, such as healthcare or financial services.
The regulatory requirements surrounding data center provision and data availability also need to be considered, with some public or critical infrastructure clients obliged to seek vendors ensuring the highest standards.
The Evolution of Backup Power
For backup power to truly evolve, there also needs to be developments in how the power is created and supplied. Improvements to current and future systems will lean heavily on advances in battery technology, including lithium-ion and solid-state batteries, making energy storage more efficient in terms of charging times and space required.
There is also a drive to include more sustainable energy options, such as switching to solar or wind energy backup power where possible, supported by batteries. These are further enabled by the advancements in AI and machine learning, which can be integrated into backup critical power packages to better predict power needs, provide early warning of potential outages and component degradation, and optimize energy distribution.
Considerations for Backup Critical Power Packages for Data Centers
Though the business protection afforded by backup critical power systems is clear, they can also require significant initial capital, especially when supply chain issues and expertise shortages drive higher costs. Space constraints must also be considered, especially for “edge” data centers, i.e., those located closer to the end-user, which is generally an urban area. Here, every square foot matters, and firms don’t necessarily have the luxury of extensive backup power systems with built-in redundancy.
All backup power packages will also require regular checks and maintenance, replacing degraded or outdated parts where necessary, adding an ongoing cost to the system.
Data center construction is expanding enormously in line with the importance of data in modern society. The market for big data analytics alone is estimated to grow to nearly $750 billion by 2030. However, there are significant constraints on this growth in terms of data center energy requirements, which also include the significant losses, both financial and reputational, firms can expect from power outages.
The solution to these concerns is backup critical power packages, which can provide financial security for firms investing in and building data centers. Backup power packages can include UPS and PDU systems to deliver a seamless transition from mains power to backup in case of outages while also delivering an optimized power supply. This helps ensure a zero downtime system and can prevent catastrophic damage to equipment from overheating.
At Enercon, we have designed and built backup critical power packages for many different uses. To find out more about how we can help you with your critical backup power needs,get in contact with our team.