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Energize Efficiency at growing data centres
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Efficiency at growing data centres

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by Deon Ferreira, Eaton Africa –  

Mines, steel mills and heavy industrial manufacturing operations are generally viewed as the main culprits in conversations around reducing power demand. However, fast-growing volumes of digital data mean computers, electronics and data centres are consuming a rapidly growing share of global energy.

Deon Ferreira

As the world’s telecommunication networks evolve into 5G networks, data transfer speeds will be supercharged and latency will diminish to nothing, making applications such as the Internet of Things (IoT), smart cities and truly connected devices (vehicles, appliances and wearables) more pervasive. This is in addition to applications critical to the running of the economy and public services, such as financial systems, digital communication, identity management and online entertainment.

However, this will come a huge cost and a rapid and sudden jump in demand for power, with data centres ballooning alongside the new demand from 5G base stations.

According to one estimate, hyperscale data centres will explode from a total estimated 286 exabytes of data globally in 2016 to 1,3 zettabytes of stored data in 2021 (One zettabyte = 1000 exabytes = 1-billion terabytes = 1-trillion gigabytes).

Data centres already consume an estimated 200 TWh per year globally, the equivalent of South Africa’s total annual power consumption, or 2% of the world’s electricity. However, this is expected to accelerate to 20% of global consumption by 2025, potentially undoing work in other sectors to alleviate the burden on resources.

Not only is this an environmental risk, but a real economic challenge, particularly in South Africa where a constrained power utility means intermittent load shedding. While the South African telecommunications sector has enjoyed deregulation in recent years, leading to the explosion of new services and operators, the same has not happened in the power industry.

Mass scale renewable energy is still in its infancy, as South Africa grapples with the riddle of increasing the share of renewable sources from the current level just under 10 to 25% by 2030. In the interim consumers are vulnerable to outages.

The explosion of big data and the cloud, the rising costs of energy, and economic hard times mean that resource efficiency has never been more important.

Data centres face tremendous challenges with respect to maintenance, alignment of the business IT strategy, and increased risk due to the explosion in emerging technologies. To control cost and reduce risk, operators are looking for new ways to maximise energy efficiency in the face of fast-rising electricity tariffs.

Power management solutions need to increase revenue-generating equipment space, optimise airflow management, leverage stranded capacity and extend the life of older data centres. To be more competitive, facility design needs to enable data centre consolidation and new reconfigurations that support mixed-tier architectures.

This requires a vision that anticipates future growth while leveraging flexible, affordable solutions to easily scale up or down. Modularity, flexibility and proportionality are at the heart of these modern business systems.

As customers expect minimal downtime, uninterrupted access to services and instant interaction with increasing terabytes of information flowing daily, application availability and resilience are mission-critical.

Eaton was recently commissioned by one of South Africa’s largest data centre operators to install an uninterrupted power supply (UPS) and power management solution to ensure the continued running of critical data services in the event of failure or load shedding.

Two 600 kVA UPS units were installed to enable the addition of phases as the facility grows. Through Eaton’s Variable Module Management System, the data centre will be able to transfer loads to the optimum number of modules, as the system can kick in extra modules when needed.

Eaton is the leading provider of quality backup power UPSs, designed to deliver efficient, modular and scalable backup power with a seamless transfer to generator power from 200 to 1200 kVA.

Contact Unity Kgongoana, Eaton, Tel 011 824-7400, unitykgongoana@eaton.com

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