380V DC Power in the Data Center

Data centers are looking for ways to increase efficiency and decrease operating costs. Most data centers use power distribution systems in which alternating-current (AC) power from the grid is converted into direct-current (DC) power to charge the batteries, and then converted back to AC for the equipment. The loss of power through multiple AC/DC conversions has been cited as an argument for using DC power distribution.

By leveraging 380-volt DC power distribution, organizations can achieve numerous benefits over a traditional alternating current design, including greater energy efficiency, higher reliability, a smaller footprint, lower installation and maintenance costs, more scalability and easier integration of renewable energy.

The key reasons why more data center managers are seriously considering adopting high-voltage DC architecture include fewer conversions, less cooling, smaller footprint and greater reliability.

Calvin Nicholson, director of Software and Firmware at Server Technology, argues that without a standard voltage and approved connector, DC power will never see the light of day.

“A standard voltage needed to be selected as it is very rare for any data center to standardize on just one manufacturer's server and manufacturer's ‘need’ design goals,” Nicholson explained in a blog post. “From all of the materials I read and product data sheets from the server manufacturer's themselves, 380V DC is the voltage agreed upon as the high voltage DC power ‘standard.’  I have never seen this written any place as a standard but the logic is that server power supplies today already convert AC to 380V DC.”

According to The Data Center Journal, for 380V DC to become the mainstream power standard in data centers three forces must be in alignment. First, data centers managers must embrace the concept and be willing to make the investment to upgrade their infrastructures.

Second, equipment manufacturers must provide the necessary equipment, such as rack power distribution products and servers to support high-voltage DC power. Server Technology offers an abundance of power distribution units (PDUs) that provide reliable power distribution for all the devices in the equipment cabinet.

It also offers Sentry Power Manager (SPM), a rack-level data center power monitoring and management system that gives you the power and environmental data you need, predicts where you may have future issues, lets you manage all of your PDUs from one dashboard and alerts you to diagnose problems.

The third force that must be in alignment for DC to become the mainstream power standard in data centers is regional utility provides must offer incentives compelling enough for data centers to make the switch.

“There is still a lot of debate over efficiency gains related to 380V DC power and only after we have a number of installations will the facts be known,” said Nicholson.