How Power Quality Affects Data Center Efficiency

If you’ve ever researched data centers, you might’ve noticed their Klingon-like redundancy — every system has multiple backups. In fact, that is the primary method of ranking data centers — how reliable and well engineered their myriad systems and backups are. But did you realize power is not a binary quality, either on or off? In fact, power can have quality problems that substantially affect performance. Experts estimate that power quality impacts the US economy to the tune of about $15 billion each year.

High-performance electronic equipment is among the most sensitive to power quality issues and hence is a considerable concern to datacenter users.

What Causes Power Quality Issues?

If you ever experienced a brownout, or seen the lights flicker during a thunderstorm, you have seen the effects of power quality. Commercial electric power is delivered at 60 Hz, and generally that voltage is stable. However, within the facility several problems may occur:

  • voltage variations
  • voltage impulses
  • distortion
  • voltage imbalance
  • fluctuation
  • or frequency variation

I’ll spare you the technical details, because I’m sure you’re already shuddering at the thought. But you’ve definitely seen symptoms of these problems, like flickering lights, transformer issues, premature failure or shutdown, or poor network communications.

Mitigation of Power Quality Issues

With so much equipment in the facility, with such complex systems, all running off and on at different intervals, it can be maddeningly difficult to correctly diagnose and correct the causes of power quality issues. However amelioration is possible.

First, obtain the necessary items in technology in order to monitor your power quality issues. Metering equipment that logs and records power quality issues is the first line of defense, but power monitoring software may be even more useful and automatable.

You might also think about an on-site audit or assessment by an expert in power systems. Power quality issues are an area that requires significant study and expertise, and it may also be difficult to free up the manpower for such an undertaking. Nevertheless, addressing power quality issues may have a dramatic impact on the bottom line by lengthening the lifespan and quality of service of your equipment.

 

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