The data center industry is in a period of rapid growth, with the amount of data generated around the world rising exponentially. As a result, data center managers are constantly looking for ways to improve efficiency and reliability on the road to achieving 100 percent uptime.
For a data center to be working at optimal efficiency, it requires reliable power distribution, but many have failed to recognize the impact aging power infrastructure has on downtime related to maintenance and repairs. Protecting the availability and reliability of the network through software monitoring and analysis, power backup, and surge suppression has never been more critical.
Although uninterruptable power supplies (UPSs) offer reliability when you may need to turn off power for new installations or repairs, modernizing the power-distribution network holistically can ensure less reliance on backup power to maintain a reliable network and avoid business interruption.
The effects of a data center power failure can cost companies in numerous ways, and new technologies for the electrical-distribution network must emphasize reliability to prevent such failures. To address this challenge, data center managers should be looking for solutions that enhance reliability while also considering cost effectiveness and simplicity of the network, without compromising environmental or physical safety and security.
Innovation Through Design
Switchgear technologies have emerged as some of the best equipped to handle the contemporary electrical demands, while maintaining the level of reliability that data center managers need. According to recent estimates from research and consulting firm Global Data, the global switchgear market is set to rise to just under $84 billion by 2020.
Electrical switchgear has typically been seen as a long-life, low-maintenance item. Because it seldom requires much maintenance, it’s often the most overlooked component in the electrical-distribution system. Though it can be low maintenance, it hasn’t completely removed human error that can ultimately cause a system to fail. As the industry continues to evolve, winning companies are looking at switchgear as a competitive advantage, enabling them to modernize aging electrical infrastructure as well as save time and money, all while delivering the highest levels of power availability.
Innovation in switchgear design allows data center managers to install and operate medium- and low-voltage networks with lasting performance and lower risk. For example, the introduction of shielded solid insulation system (2SIS) technology in the U.S. brings unprecedented levels of reliability while providing an incidentally touchable system to protect against internal arcing by insulating the main circuit components with a layer of solid material.
Typically, the current-carrying live components of switchgear are separated by air. Because air is a gas, it provides little protection from arc flash in the switchgear. The 2SIS technology is a solid insulation, meaning bus bars are separated by the material, preventing them from interacting and creating faults. On top of the epoxy is a conductive and grounded layer. It adds another level of safety for those repairing and maintaining the switchgear. There is no electric field in the ambient air, because the live conductors are confined within the switchgear enclosure. By reducing the risk of internal arcing, 2SIS increases safety. This design also prevents damage to the system, shielding the switchgear from dust, water, humidity and other environmental factors that could cause failures.
At the same time, performing maintenance on the electrical-distribution network involves inherent risk to maintenance personnel as well as more downtime for the power system. The newest switchgear can operate virtually maintenance free, reducing arc-flash and electrocution risk while increasing uptime and reducing total cost of ownership.
Preventive maintenance and high-performance solutions are important to maximizing profitability, and the electrical system is no exception. The highest-performing electrical system starts with switchgear. By innovating in the design and technology of this component, risk to workers and the system can be minimized. Maintaining the electrical system is a critical path to helping data center managers achieve peace of mind.
The cost associated with the distribution network is also an important factor for data center managers to consider when mapping an approach to greater uptime. Newer equipment allows smaller devices to be used, allowing data center managers to concentrate the same amount of power in less space. The 2SIS technology makes switchgear smaller and more modular, reducing the amount of space required for the distribution network in a data center design and increasing energy efficiency. It also enables less frequent maintenance cycles—from 2 or 3 years to nearly 10—considerably reducing associated maintenance costs.
Additionally, new switchgear designs help better distribute the power range of a data center, helping operators decrease the amount of cables used and thereby generating additional cost savings and better controlling the total fault available at the facility.
The modular nature of the next-generation switchgear design enhances the ease of both installation and upgrades. The high degree of modularity also optimizes delivery times and simplifies modification, furthering cost savings.
Although 2SIS technology isn’t a revolutionary concept, its impact is significant for the data center industry. The technology effectively modernizes the entire power-distribution system, extending its life, decreasing total cost of ownership and better protecting the assets of the data center, including greater safety for operators and managers. It gives the data center industry a new way to design, install and operate the electrical-distribution network, enhancing the value of backup systems and other technologies by making the power network smarter and more efficient. The 2SIS technology is redefining power distribution for the modern world and helping data center managers on their journey to reaching 100 percent uptime
About the Authors
James Stacy received a degree in electrical engineering from Tennessee Technological University in 1998, a Professional Engineer license in 2002 and an MBA from Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management in 2014. He is currently the director of offer strategy in Schneider Electric’s U.S. Energy Business. With a focus on offer-technology management, James is responsible for offer strategy, including understanding customer values, application requirements, competitive environment and anticipation of their evolution. His responsibilities also include definition of new offers and existing offer adaptation. Email James at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joe Richard is the US Launch Manager for Schneider Electric’s Premset Switchgear. Joe graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a BS degree in electrical engineering in 2007 and has been with Schneider Electric since 2008. He has worked in a variety of roles including sales, marketing and business development. Joe’s main focus has been medium-voltage distribution switchgear and its applications. His professional interests include power distribution, energy efficiency, power protection and automation, energy storage, and renewable energy.
To learn more about 2SIS technology, visit www.schneider-electric.us/premset.