The push for DC power was taking hold several years ago when technology heavyweights Intel, Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems (News - Alert) were giving it more attention as an alternative to standard data center power. Detractors dismissed DC power initiatives, however, viewing it as mere media hype.
According to this Data Center Knowledge piece, in the time between then and now, the hype outmatched the projected growth of data power center DC usage. A study by Lawrence Berkely National Labs suggested that data power center usage could drop as much as 20 percent by utilizing DC power distribution. Despite those potential savings, the adoption of DC power never quite took off as expected.
With the less than optimal growth, proponents of DC power are still out there pushing it for data power centers and there seems to be renewed interest, especially with global power specialist ABB paying closer attention. Industry insiders say the DC power standard is safe and reliable. But safe and reliable doesn't always sell as well as cost reduction. With DC power, this is a main component.
At a recent Data Center Efficiency Summit, a comparison between AC and DC power was made using the Duke Energy (News - Alert) data power center implementation, which uses AC and DC systems. Savings were nearly 16 percent over the AC system alone. This hybrid example also provided more data to support DC systems as a data center power source.
Fueling the debate on one side is the situation where a data center utilizes a distribution system relying on UPS batteries charged with DC power converted by AC power coming off the grid. The power is then switched back over to AC to be compatible with the data center power equipment. All these conversions cause a drop in power and lessen the efficiency.
When a DC distribution is in place, however, it can eliminate some of the conversion processes. Some in the industry point out that DC power has been safely used in telecommunications for many years and they're simply waiting for the industry as a whole to catch up.
Another boost to a new data power center is a push to make 380 volt the global standard. For example, EMerge Alliance, an open industry association, is pushing for DC power adoption and is devising technical standards for data centers. Using a hybrid AC and DC microgrid system, EMerge is moving on a 380-volt DC power standard, which is more efficient than AC power standards.
Where data power centers are concerned, EMerge is forming a committee for data centers to advance the 380 standard. They are now focusing on the European Telecom Standards Institute to adopt the 380 standard. It is a paradigm shift at its core, but one that could shake up the data center power industry going forward. Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Carrie Schmelkin