Data Centers are Getting Denser and Smarter: Here’s How Facility Managers Can Keep Up

Elie Byrne
May 29, 2024

data-centers-are-getting-denser-and-smarter-heres-how-facility-managers-can-keep-up -

Data centers are under pressure to adapt to the demands of emerging technologies. Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), the Internet of Things (IoT), and other compute-heavy technologies are driving the rapid increase in density and intelligence within data centers. A researcher at Omdia describes this transition as turning data centers “from a compute and storage factory into an AI factory.” As a result, data center operators will need to rethink existing facilities and design new ones to accommodate higher density, greater efficiency, elevated reliability and resiliency, and enhanced sustainability.

When addressing the needs of future data centers, whether new or existing, the focus is on power. Power quality and distribution are the foundations for this new and exciting technology. Establishing a robust and future-proof foundation includes critical power monitoring equipment, intelligent rack PDUs, and track busways.

The Downtime Dilemma: How Power Quality Plays a Role
Data centers are crucial in today's digital landscape, running non-stop to support various operations. Outages can have devastating financial implications, with potential costs ranging from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. The industry continues to grapple with the challenge of avoiding outages. According to the Uptime Institute's 2023 survey, 60% of data center operators experienced outages in the past three years, with on-site power issues being the primary cause of the most significant cases. The critical role of power quality in mitigating outages is often overlooked, and the failure to effectively monitor and manage it can lead to downtime and equipment damage. 

Data center equipment is highly susceptible to power fluctuations. Common sources of power quality issues include voltage sags and swells, harmonic distortion, and transients. This sensitivity is worsened by the fact that the equipment within the facility itself can cause power disturbances in the voltage waveforms. Examples include non-linear switch mode power supplies used for servers, switches, and storage systems, as well as lighting ballasts and UPS inverters that convert DC power back into AC. The introduction of new High Performance Computing (HPC) equipment, such as AI clusters, underscores the need for data center operators to conduct power quality monitoring (PQM) and take proactive measures to address power quality issues. 

PQM Offers Granular Visibility: Role of Next-Gen Intelligent Rack PDUs
Equipment with continuous power quality monitoring at the device level can help reduce downtime and other power quality issues. The newest generation of intelligent rack PDUs provides the visibility and control that data center operators need. Raritan’s PX4 intelligent rack PDUs/ Server Technology’s PRO4X intelligent rack PDUs are all-in-one solutions that offer industry-leading visibility, reporting, and alerting for power metrics and events at the cabinet, as well as best-in-class flexibility to meet and anticipate future requirements. Engineered for mission-critical uptime, the PRO4X and PX4 revolutionize capacity planning, workload optimization, environmental monitoring, physical and digital access control, and uptime initiatives. They feature a simple installation process, high-density outlet support, seamless integration with existing DCIM or BMS solutions, and the most accurate real-time power quality visibility and enterprise-level security. 

Achieve Higher Density with Track Busway Innovations
The rapid advancement of AI and other emerging technologies is leading to a substantial increase in power consumption due to the high-capacity chips and equipment required to support them. Precedence Research forecasts that the global AI market will increase from $454 billion in 2022 to $2.6 trillion by 2032.  Consequently, the energy usage of data centers is expected to spike. The International Energy Agency (IEA) believes the industry’s total electricity consumption may double to over 1,000 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2026 compared to 460 TWh in 2022. 

As a result, rack power densities are set to increase from the current 20 kW to 40 kW and beyond. In extreme cases, data center operators may need to achieve 80 kW to 200 kW per rack density. Addressing these higher-density racks will require reliable, flexible power distribution systems capable of adapting to future needs.  

Starline Track Busway is one of the most efficient power distribution systems available. The overhead design avoids the problems that clusters of wires can cause at the floor level, including lower airflow and tripping hazards. Track busway combines technical reliability, extreme versatility, and support for higher densities into one product and is available in various sizes, from 40 to 1250 amps, with 3-phase systems rated up to 600Vac or 600Vdc. The system significantly reduces installation time and labor compared to busduct and pipe and wire products. Perhaps most importantly, Starline Track Busway is highly flexible and can be configured and reconfigured without power interruptions as density requirements accelerate.

Bring It All Together with Critical Power Monitor
The M70 CPM is Starline's third generation of Critical Power Monitor products. This core component ties everything together, and the revenue-grade energy monitoring system provides data center managers with real-time data necessary for optimizing the performance of their electrical infrastructure. It delivers high granularity at the power feed, branch-circuit level, and stand-alone enclosure. The meter incorporates various features, such as groundbreaking temperature monitoring, audible alarms, and a swiveling display for convenient visibility from the floor. Additionally, it offers the most comprehensive communication protocol options currently available. 

Keep Up with the Pace of Innovation
As data centers continue to get denser and smarter, facility managers require advanced tools to address these challenges effectively. The PRO4X and PX4 intelligent rack PDUs, Starline Track Busway, and M70 CPM solutions are designed to empower data center operators by equipping them with the necessary tools to ensure reliable, efficient, and scalable power management. Embracing these technologies allows data center managers to stay ahead of the curve, optimizing their facilities to thrive in an era of high density and high-power usage. For more information, you can download our whitepaper on high-density data center design here

Contact us here to inquire about Legrand’s suite of data center enablers.