What do Data Centres need from emergency power UPS backup plants?

Data Centers need the following from UPS backup plants.

  • A reliable UPS system offering 100% uptime under all power supply conditions.
  • N+1 or A and B redundancy UPS solutions.
  • Battery technology used and recyclability in Africa.
  • An Expandable UPS system which can grow with the Data centre, from the start of the operation to the addition of IT load; whether in racks or normal servers.
  • Small footprint UPS systems, as data centres are costly to build and floor space is therefore always in demand.
  • Extremely high efficiencies to reduce UPS system heat loss and thus lower the total running cost for emergency backup power by reducing electricity consumption from the ESKOM grid, as well as reduce the cooling requirement for the data centre UPS and backup battery rooms which need to be kept clean and cool at all times.
  • Technical competence and support from the UPS supplier.
  • Proper spares holding in Africa.
  • Online, real-time monitoring and control of the data centre UPS plant.
  • UPS Interface with the data centre BMS (Building Management System)

What are the UPS plant essentials?


What is IGBT?

An insulated-gate bipolar transistor (IGBT) is a three-terminal power semiconductor device primarily used as an electronic switch which, as it was developed, came to combine high efficiency and fast switching.

Many UPS technologies have been developed over the years in the standby power industry.

It goes without saying that the better the technology used, the more expensive it is to make the UPS, so the latest UPS technology is not always the cheapest.

The most advanced and modern UPS technologies need the best electronics and microprocessor controls that are very high speed in operation.

The better the controls, the better the UPS works without any downtime to the IT load; there is an increase in the UPS efficiency.

Power Components

Besides the controls, there are different types of power components in a UPS to handle this high power energy.

The best power components to ensure you have for your data centre are to make use of IGBT’s in the rectifier and the inverter. This is the most modern technology in power components.

Another power component in your UPS that is important is a very high-efficiency inverter output transformer. This makes a good, clean neutral connection (AC power connections consist of a live wire and a neutral wire) available to the load, and very close to the load, to reduce any potential problem caused by far away connections for the Neutral. This inverter output transformer also protects the load from any possible high battery power (DC) if it should get through the inverter in the case of a shorting in the inverter components, as well as acting as a filter for all bad power that IT loads put back into the ESKOM supply, when they are working.

How to comply with tier rating


The Data centre UPS user must select a UPS plant that complies with the TIER rating requirements of his data centre.

It must also be remembered that the Data centre TIER rating may be upgraded one day, so the UPS should at least be capable of supplying all types of TIER rating requirements.

Load growth

As with any data centre, the expansion of the UPS system when the data centre grows is very important.

It is thus essential that the UPS has paralleling capability to compensate for this.

The idea of modular, relatively low power components seems nice to have, but the initial cost is very excessive, and the paralleling of so many power components to make N load is a huge reliability issue.

This modular solution always uses one box for all the power components, so if the box blows, then the whole system is lost. For the same reason, disaster recovery sites must be far away from each other; it’s an all your eggs in one basket scenario.

The best way to allow for UPS expansion is individual block modules, each with its own rectifier, static bypass, manual bypass and inverter, that are paralleled up and if your UPS supplier knows what he is doing, then he can assist you in catering for hot load expansion in the future.

What is the UPS footprint in your data centre?


As a data centre is expensive to build, it is important to use the space as effectively as possible. It is thus imperative to select a UPS system that has very high power availability in the smallest footprint.

Another significant thing is to select a UPS that can be installed back-to-back or up against a wall, only requiring front access for all maintenance to use as little space as possible.

As batteries are normally in battery rooms, it is good practice to use stands, or racks, as they are called. These use less floor space and utilize the height while being easily accessible, making battery maintenance and running costs lower.

Green and reliable data centres


Everything in a data centre is about being green with the lowest carbon footprint.

This is a key factor in decision making during your UPS selection process.

Of course, the highest UPS efficiencies are a key factor in ensuring low running costs; however, the UPS user should never sacrifice efficiency for reliability.

Reliability and uptime are the most important considerations when looking at data centre operations and the critical UPS load.

The answer is simple: No UPS power all the time; No data centre uptime.

The data centre must run under all power supply situations and must never drop its load.

More important than efficiency is thus the UPS reliability. The most reliable UPS type to use is a proven transformer-based system, from a top 5, world-class rated company such as AROS RIELLO with the Master HE online double conversion UPS. It’s just the same as you do in your server selection process.

Battery type and recyclability

The most common battery type selection to back up the UPS plant is the Valve Regulated Lead Acid or VRLA as it is also known.

This product is widely available and relatively low cost by comparison to other technologies like Lithium-Ion, LiFePHO4 and the very evil Nickel Cadmium where the Cadmium is highly toxic.

In Africa, there are a few factories with crushing plants that can recycle the lead-acid batteries very easily whether they are flooded vented cells, VRLA, Automotive, Mining, Railways, etc.

Thus it is inexpensive to get rid of these products, and they end up again as new batteries.

All other battery technologies may claim recyclability but not necessarily 100%, and then it cannot be done in Africa, but overseas, so the user incurs high costs to ship to an overseas plant and recycle.

Thus the only green battery to consider in Africa is the lead-acid battery type.

Are there any competent UPS providers in Africa?


Besides reliability, the next most vital thing to consider when selecting a UPS for your data centre is the technical competence of your UPS supplier.

The UPS user should look at the availability within the UPS supplier for technical staff members who are regularly trained at the overseas manufacturer’s premises.

Without proper factory-trained staff, the best UPS product is no good to any data centre when a UPS problem happens.

The next thing to look at is the potential UPS supplier’s spares holding in Africa. It is becoming ever more common to hear of top UPS manufacturers or their agents not having ALL the spare parts available locally. This means downtime of, at times, several weeks.

This is completely unacceptable for any UPS user, especially a data centre, and a significant threat to its long term viability and business partners.

Make sure the UPS supplier you select has at least 3 or more technical support staff with regular overseas supplier training practices and go and look for yourself; inspect the spare parts your UPS supplier claims he carries.

Check the supplier spares holding against the spare parts list issued by the manufacturer before you buy.