“Sometimes you need to look back to see ahead”. I never thought this saying will go well with data centers. It seems the new big thing with data centers is the transition from AC to DC architecture. DC took the back seat over a century ago and gave way to AC. So why should we revert to DC? We live in an AC world and things seem okay. Why the change?
There is a good reason to change to DC, at least for data centers. Most of the hardware in a data center runs on Direct Current. Since the power grid offers predominantly Alternating Current, conversion from AC to DC needs to take place before consumption. In the conversion process electricity is lost. DC data centers are between 10 and 20 percent more efficient that their AC counterparts. Switching from AC to DC direct infrastructure eliminates three conversion steps in the electrical system, and also reduces the load on the air conditioning by the reduced amount of heat being created in the conversion process.
There is also one great benefit to DC data centers – real estate. With DC infrastructure you can save between 20 and 40 percent floor space, leaving you plenty of room for further expansion.
Most of our electronics run on DC. Windmill power goes through batteries before reaching is, so does solar. It is basically DC converted to ac and then converted back to DC again, just so we can plug in our hardware. It actually makes great sense to switch back to DC.
The big players are already doing it. Facebook adopted a DC architecture in its Prineville, Ore., data center. SAP spent $128,000 retrofitting a data center at its offices in Palo Alto, Calif., to rely on DC power. In 2010 this move cut SAP’s energy bills by $24,000 per year.
Major names are catching up with the trend pretty fast. ABB bought a controlling interest in Validus DC Systems (manufacturers of data center DC equipment), while General Electric bought Lineage Power.
With the conversion cycles down from 5 for AC to DC to only 2 for DC, things look bright for data centers. More efficient, less hardware, more space, easier maintenance. It all seems pretty good. The cost for the end-user is bound to go down in the next couple of years.
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