The world is generally a noisy place that is sometimes soothing or relaxing, but most often unpleasant with excessive levels of noise. In urban areas, there is constant noise emanating from car engines, bus and delivery truck engines, and even noise from jet engines in the sky. In the suburbs, it’s the lawn mower, grass trimmer engines or snow blower engines (in colder climate areas). In warmer climates, especially along the coast, it’s quite common to hear the Harley Davidson motorcycle engines reverberating down the strip.

Conversely, if you’ve ever almost been run over by an electric car in a parking lot, you know because its’s virtually silent. Regarding the other noise generating devices I mentioned, I recently purchased an electric lawn trimmer and I have to say that this gen 3 product with advanced Lithium Ion batteries replicates the power of an old gas trimmer and is much lighter to boot – without the super load gas engine. Electric push lawn mowers have been around for a while, but now there are riding lawn mowers powered by Lithium Ion. Believe it or not Harley Davidson has announced that an electric “hog” is in development. Also, there has been a flurry of electric airplane engine testing successes and commercial flights up to 1,000 miles will be technically possible by 2024. It seems like the world is about to be a quieter place.

Why Typical Data Center Infrastructure Noise is Above Average

smart doctor hand working with modern laptop computer in modern office with virtual icon diagramData centers are famous for being very noisy, surprisingly noisy in fact. If you have ever visited one or often work with data center infrastructure, you are very familiar with how unpleasantly loud they can be. I recently visited one where the noise readings ranged from a low of 75 dBA to a high of 95 dBA. In comparison, normal conversation is about 60 dB, a power lawn mower is about 90 dB, and a jet engine at takeoff is 140 dB, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The federal government sets workplace standards for noise and doesn’t require action until workers are exposed to average noise levels of 85 dB or greater during an eight-hour day.

Where does the sound in data centers come from? The servers themselves generate noise coming from the high velocity fans, but the highest levels come from the HVAC equipment (air conditioners) from the fans, condensers, compressors and evaporators. Some efforts can be made to lower this noise in a reactive way by installing sound-deadening acoustic tiles on the ceiling and data center’s walls. However, data centers today (small and large), are extremely noisy environments

The Silent Data Center is Possible – Achieve it with Liquid Cooling

What if all of the server fan noise and all the noise emanating from the cooling equipment went away? The data center would be virtually silent! Is that possible? It is possible by going with liquid cooling servers. Liquid cooling servers do not have fans and make zero noise. There are two different types – emersion and direct to chip (sometimes called cold plate). Emersion technology floods the server with a liquid designed to collect and dissipate heat. This liquid circulates around the server and heat is rejected to a heat exchanger usually on the back of the server. With direct to chip, fluid (usually water) is sprayed on the plate on the back of the micro pressor in the server. Both of these are dependent on a cold-water supply from outside the building. This cold-water supply also is silent inside the data center. Plus, all of those noisy fans, condensers, compressors and evaporators go away.

Learn More about the Impact of Liquid Cooling in the Data Center Industry

There you have it, technology advancements are eliminating unpleasant sounds that you hear every day and now we can have silent data centers with liquid cooling – a world without noise. Check out my other blog on liquid cooling and why aside from the reduction of noise pollution, it is making its way back in the mainstream of the data center industry.

There was a time when ideas like efficiency, sustainability and resiliency were thought to be mutually exclusive terms. This was a problem for those involved in data center operations from colocation service providers to enterprise facilities, where the primary objective was to ensure service availability. Inevitably that demanded complex 2N electrical designs that were energy depleting. Colocations have evolved tremendously and are looking at a future ripe with even more environmentally friendly options.

Sustainability

Reap the Benefits of Sustainability

Today the majority of people and big businesses involved both in IT and colocation data centers have come to realize that sustainable energy supplies bring a lot of benefits. Besides guarding the health of the environment, sustainable practices can reduce operating costs by decreasing energy usage.

One approach to capture energy efficiencies is to operate in cooler climates and more remote locations. This means companies that operate responsibly as global citizens don’t have to compete for space and power in urban spaces where the demand for housing puts real estate at a premium. In fact, a cool temperate climate, coupled with a plentiful supply of renewable energy sources, has made the Nordic countries a destination of choice for customers looking to colocate IT loads in Europe.

A recently published report commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers indicates sharp growth for the Nordic data center market by 2025, with expected annual construction investments in the order of $2-4.5bn (this equates to an installed annual capacity of 280-580 MW per year). It’s a massive investment as the Nordics position as Europe’s edge location for non-critical applications.

The Green Mountain Story: Fjord Meets Colocation Data Center

Speaking at a recent Datacloud Europe event, Svein Atle Hagaseth, CSO at Norway’s Green Mountain AS, a leading supplier of colocation data center services, confirmed that customers are increasingly talking about changing climate requirements, energy efficiency and sustainability. “With near 100 percent renewable energy, being in Norway is a good place to be when you have a sustainability agenda,” he said.



Hagaseth said, “The nature of Norway is fantastic; the power is green, hydro-based. You can leverage the cold wet Norwegian climate to create very energy efficient solutions inside the data center… we’re actually using the fjord outside one of our data centers to provide cooling. It takes around 3kW of power to generate the equivalent of about 1000kW of cooling.”

Data Center Sustainability Isn’t Just for Cool Climates

Sustainability is not only for data centers located in cool areas. Other climates have good access to wind and solar energy for example. Hagaseth emphasized that innovation is key. “You need to use technology to take advantage of beneficial climatic conditions – you need technology and nature to create sustainable solutions. It’s important to not simply do things as they have always been done,” he said. It is important to design a strategy, deliver energy efficiency, and sustain results for your enterprise.

Technology choices need to be continuously reviewed. The climate is changing and it’s imperative to ensure that data center tech choices remain relevant today, tomorrow, and for at least 5 or 10 years into the future to reflect customers’ lifecycle requirements.

Colocation Market Demanding Energy Efficiency

Environmentally friendly technologies for colocation providers aren’t just a nice to have, rather colocation customers are starting to expect it. They are looking for providers that are embracing sustainable practices in line with their own company’s strategy and values.

Investors are looking at colocation provider environmental scorecards too. “Sustainability is becoming a highly relevant metric for the data center industry and it is essential that the growth in the data center space is accompanied by energy efficiency innovation and new models where investors are engaged in expanding the supply of renewable energy,“ Steen Hommel, Director Invest in Denmark recently told industry publication, Data Economy. Also, with environmental regulations continuously evolving, it makes good sense to actively seek out sustainable approaches and technology today to prepare for the future.

Learn More About Green Mountain’s Sustainability Story

To discover more about Green Mountain’s use of natural and renewable resources to power and cool its data centers, watch Hagaseth in this Datacloud Europe interview.

By Peter Herweck, Executive Vice President, Industry Business, and Annette Clayton, North America President & CEO, Executive Vice President, Global Supply China, Schneider Electric

There is no denying that we are well into the swing of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Early adopters of digitization are already seeing measurable benefits such as increased energy efficiency and quicker troubleshooting which is resulting in less downtime of their assets and a better return on capital expenditure. However, there is still concern that digitization will not be accepted or adopted by the workforce, or knowledge will be lost.

How can we manage this and make sure that the benefits of digitization can be adopted at scale and diffused throughout the industrial ecosystem?

Our answer: empower your people.

People are augmented with, and empowered by, technology

Facilitating operators with mobile devices, data analytics, augmented reality, and transparent connectivity means decision making will be smarter and faster and manufacturers will be able to deliver on increasingly strident market demands for more flexible and sustainable manufacturing. For example, collected data can enable new and different behaviours and operating procedures – like process data on asset utilization that can extend the life of connected industrial assets, or simulation and scenario planning tools that can suggest more sustainable solutions to things like raw material selection, choosing the most optimal energy supplier, or recommendations on the most suitable delivery method.

In smart factories you will not only see intelligent new technologies, that can sometimes even be self-learning, but you will see these new technologies working seamlessly with highly skilled operators to increase productivity and operate and manage the plant in real time. The human element in gathering, comparing, and analysing data is essential.

Digital transformation is about connectivity and collaboration

Connectivity between products, machines, and people, collaboration between people, and collaboration across the complete industrial value chain are the enabling factors of digitization. If there is a risk to the success of the widespread adoption of digitization it’s going to be how companies manage the journey and train their people to step up and embrace the changes smart manufacturing brings to their day-to-day work.

A culture that drives and manages innovation and the proper implementation of new technologies is important but it’s not enough, people need to experience the benefits first hand. We have found through our own digitization journey that pilot phases, peer-to-peer learning, and cross-site collaboration have been most effective in ensuring the rapid adoption and appreciation of new technologies by our workforce. Our people were looking for ease-of-use and learning opportunities, and have benefited greatly from a better ability to transfer knowledge among themselves on what fixes or adjustments have been made to processes, and so been able to be more predictive around downtime risks.

A success story in China

In a relatively new factory in China, with high revenue growth and limited resources, we can see compelling results that drive the case for digitization:

  • A 15% decrease in quality issues
  • A 5%decrease in energy consumption
  • A 4% percent increase in overall equipment efficiency

But it’s how we’ve gone about achieving those results – the key enablers – that point to the people power in this plant.

Our Wuhan site has become a showcase factory in Asia where experts in machines, plants, power, and grid have taken on an ambassador role to drive the changes required to reap the benefits of digitization. They have built a standard architecture that encompasses all of their best practices and started to roll it out across China, facilitating cross-site collaboration on the implementation, testing, and scaling up of new technologies like Digital Energy Management systems, Advanced Production Scheduling, and Automation by COBOT/AGV.

These ambassadors have a significant role to play in internal training – having trained more than 300 people and taken on a bureau type role in recreating, testing, and fixing real customer problems from across the region.

In addition, best practices are not only shared on operational changes, but other departments like finance and human resources are involved to ensure the entire ecosystem is prepared for the factory of the future.

In conclusion, we may think that smart manufacturing is all about connectivity – but it’s the collaboration part that is going to take industrial companies to places they never dreamed were possible.

For an industrial UPS to do its job well in a harsh transportation environment – meaning provide power protection to various applications – then it must be able to stand up to the rigors that an environment presents, including vibration, dust and chemicals.

train

Not all UPSs are built that way. Most live in a climate-controlled environment such as a data center or office building, safe from any elements that may do it harm. But UPSs that have to function in an airport, rail system, seaport or road tunnel are a different breed, built with special features that enable them to withstand the day-to-day realities of these environments. These types of applications require a unique power protection solution to keep transportation operations running, as well as ensuring passenger safety.

Power Protection that Withstands Tremors 

One element is the ability to deal with serious vibration. Consider a railway or subway system, which has numerous critical systems that need UPS protection. Some of them are in areas close to where the trains are passing by, such as those protecting the signaling systems as well as line and track monitoring systems.

Every time a train passes at high speed, it creates significant vibration, enough to damage the delicate electronics of many IT-related systems and underground lines, not to mention kick up lots of dust. What’s required is a UPS (and other systems) that are ruggedized, built to withstand that kind of vibration and outfitted with dust filters.

Schneider Electric, for example, has light industrial application UPSs that do have dust filters and can withstand significant vibration, with varying seismic certifications.

Protecting UPSs against Harsh, Humid Environments

In some transportation environments, the environment can be inhospitable to UPSs, whether it’s excessive humidity or chemicals in the air that can corrode the UPS cabinet and components over time. This is especially true for underground applications such as railroads or road tunnels, which are damp and dusty.

I know of an area near Bombay in India that is home to many chemical factories. At a train station there you can often smell sulfur in the air, and it’s likely there’s chemical residue in the air.

Such instances demand a UPS have a conformal coating, which is a polymeric film that protects the UPSs’ sensitive components from whatever might be in the air, including moisture and chemicals.

Reliability is Paramount for Industrial UPSs

Another element to look for in an industrial UPS is high reliability, which can take several forms. With a modular UPS, for example, you can create highly redundant systems, whether N+1 or N+4, depending on your requirements. So if one module fails, another takes over.

Systems that allow you to swap out batteries while the UPS remains in service is also crucial for extended uptime. Say utility power is out for 5 hours and your UPS battery provides only 2 hours of uptime. A modular design that lets you swap out batteries on the fly would enable you to have extra batteries on hand for such situations, providing a high degree of availability.

Safety is another consideration, which is why you want an industrial UPS that complies with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) IP Codes. These codes define the degree of protection the UPS casing provides against intrusion by human body parts (such as hands and fingers), as well as dust and water.

The codes have two digits, with the first indicating the level of protection against foreign objects or the touching of hazardous parts. The second has to do with protection against water and other liquids. Higher codes indicate more protection. For example, IP 21 means protection against fingers or similar objects and dripping water, while IP 66 means the casing is dust-tight and protected against jets of water. Schneider Electric provides IP 21 as a baseline UPS system.

Learn More about Industrial Business Continuity

The point is, not all industrial UPSs are the same. It is critical to assess the requirements of each situation and select a UPS that will fit the exact need to prevent service disruption and ensure safety.

We have resources that can help, including our Secure Power Industrial Selector, an online tool that walks you through the UPS selection process. Another is our industrial business continuity web page, where you’ll find case studies, reference guides and lots more. I hope you find them useful.