“Pay-as-you-grow” offers potential for colocation data centre operators to grow sustainably and profitably. In this interview, ABB’s global head of data centre technology, Dave Sterlace, explains how to implement the strategy and shares a couple of examples.
What is “pay-as-you-grow”?
Demand for colocation space is growing fast as businesses recognise the benefits of outsourcing data services for better availability and flexibility. The challenge with managing this is how to do it efficiently – and this is what pay-as-you-grow does.
having to make large up-front investments in a new site, pay-as-you-grow is
designed so that new capacity can be installed little and often. This improves
affordability as operators can secure tenants earlier and use the income to
invest in their next infrastructure build phase.
uses scalable and modular solutions to provide a consistent, efficient, and
cost-efficient way to meet demand.
designers, operators, and stakeholders can benefit from benefits including
faster deployment, improved reliability, reduced capital costs, and higher
can new capacity be added?
Data centre operators want to deploy new infrastructure fast. In 2010, two-year build times were typical. However, according to a survey in 2020, 39% of industry professionals expect to see new capacity rolled out in less than a year and 66% in less than 18 months.
One example is
US operator GIGA. It delivered the first phase of a new centre in North
Carolina in less than six months and with an ultra-low Power Usage
Effectiveness (PUE) of 1.15. This is enabling it to save energy and minimise the
operating costs of its 60 MW facility.
It called on
ABB as a design partner to deliver a packaged power solution. The approach is
based on a ‘system plus system’ arrangement and features two types of UPS
system to provide flexibility and scalability.
supports customer IT loads and is the site’s existing TLE UPS. It is integrated
with lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, which are lightweight and compact. These
are particularly important in this case as the UPS is installed on a mezzanine
level that has space and load-carrying limits. The Li-ion batteries also help
to reduce energy demand as they can run at higher temperatures, reducing the
GIGA is its
second UPS to support network servers. It is based on the decentralised parallel
architecture (DPA) approach. It meets the operator’s requirement for a
low-power system and scalable deployment, enabling GIGA to expand its facility
in 2 MW blocks.
challenges are there and how can operators avoid them?
It might sound
obvious but if you have a pay-as-you-grow strategy, you need systems that are
designed for scalability and flexibility from the start. This will avoid cost
and time delays when rolling out future expansions.
that has used this approach is Volico in Florida. It wanted its FLL1 Tier IV
colocation data centre to have excellent availability and reliability, as well
as providing dedicated server space for customers.
construction, it found that the original proposed UPS was not scalable and
approached ABB for advice.
switching to a modular DPA UPS with the capability of scaling up in 100 kW
increments. This type of UPS can be scaled vertically in increments of 100 kW
up to 500 kW in a single frame, and horizontally in up to six parallel frames
for a total of 3 MW.
It supports Volico’s ‘six-nines’ principle of 99.9999% availability. It also has the additional benefits of high energy efficiency, and hot-swappability so that maintenance can be performed on a module while the rest of the system is live.
the design considerations for pay-as-you-grow?
considerations must be taken into account when planning and implementing a pay
as you grow strategy. These are: choice of electrical topology, equipment
scalability, digitalisation, and modular deployment.
topology is the first choice and depends on how much redundancy the operator
wants. System plus system topology provides the highest level of redundancy but
is the most costly as it uses two independent systems to supply the load. At
the other end of the scale, block redundant topology makes the most efficient
use of electrical infrastructure as it automatically switches critical loads to
a reserve or catcher system if the original supply fails.
redundant topology is a compromise between the two. It uses N+1 UPS systems to
share backup capacity across N loads.
essential to specify equipment scalability. For example, by choosing
gas-insulated switchgear (GIS), UPS, power distribution units (PDU), and remote
power panels (RPP) that are capable of scalability. A modular UPS based on
decentralised parallel architecture (DPA) enables scalability while also
delivering continuous power availability during maintenance and expansion, and
has a lower upfront investment.
– adding intelligence to your electrical equipment – can improve simplicity and
enhance scalability as uses a single fiber optic communication bus instead of
many point-to-point copper wire connections. The result is that it’s possible
to reduce wiring by up to 90%, saving installation time when adding new phases.
modular systems that are pre-engineered, prefabricated, and pretested packages
such as skid units and ehouses can accelerate construction times while reducing
risk through consistency.
the technology exists to support pay-as-you-grow for your chosen topology. It’s
a matter of specifying equipment that is designed for scalability to support