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The data centre pie gets ever more tasty for the UPS market

Thu, 11/15/2012 - 17:10 -- Ruth Williams

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Data Centre World is one of the larger events on the calendar for UPS product and service companies hoping to carve a larger slice of the ever-expanding data centre pie.

A large proportion of the exhibitors were direct suppliers or manufacturers of critical power technology, some large, some not so large. Perhaps surprisingly for one of the larger shows, product launches were few and far between this year, but there was certainly no shortage of talent on the show floor.

Finning aims for UPS success

Finning says its customers increasingly want total power solutions, which encompass gensets, UPS, switchgear and other electrical equipment, with integrated service and maintenance contracts. This one-stop shop, power centre solutions are attractive because they can reduce costs for the end-user and there is just ‘one throat to choke’ in case there is a problem.

But Finning is best known as one of the world’s leading suppliers of Caterpillar genset engines, not for UPS systems. In February it showed clear intent to muscle into the UPS market by appointing Mike Smith as its new UPS sales manager. Mike started his career as a trainee apprentice at Chloride Industrial Batteries in the late 1970s and has worked in the industry ever since.

Smith says Finning’s sales of UPS systems have been pretty slow up until now – they have sold just one small battery UPS system – but the Canadian-headquartered company is potentially well positioned to offer competitive UPS solutions. Caterpillar has invested in Active Power’s flywheel technology pretty much from day one, while Finning has an agreement with Schneider Electric to use APC battery UPS systems, which offers the promise of access to data and product development, not just a branding arrangement, he says.

Active Power in high spirits

The Austin, Texas-based flywheel manufacturer Active Power was in buoyant mood following the appointment of new president and CEO, Doug Milner, replacing interim helmsman Jan Lindelow. Joining from energy service firm Aquilex Corporation, where he was COO, Milner’s UPS experience includes Powerware Corporation, which was acquired by Eaton, as well as the Power Systems unit of Invensys plc.

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The firm was displaying its 20 foot PowerHouse containerised system, of which it is understandably very proud. The Evesham office in the UK hopes for strong sales in the UK from military and academic customers, and hopes to announce multimillion dollar sales in the months ahead. Active Power’s share price continues to perform below expectations, but the firm takes some hope, albeit in a rather twisted-logic fashion, from the almost zero sales by UPS suppliers offering flywheel UPS systems, which it believes are far inferior products.

Riello UPS offers demand response service via Kiwi Power

Riello UPS is of course of the larger manufacturers of UPS products, but it had a relatively quiet show in terms of product launches. It has expanded its three-phase flywheel Master UPS VDC (Voltage Direct Connect) range from 100?500kVa to 600kVa. Last year Riello UPS signed an exclusive distribution deal with US flywheel manufacturer Vycon, allowing the Italian firm to supply the product in Europe, the Middle East & Africa (EMEA). It is hopeful for a number of potential sales this year.

Representatives of UK-based energy service provider KiWi Power were on hand at the Riello stand to explain its demand response service partnership to provide client’s sites running large generators - typically from 200kW - with revenue through a Short Term Operating Reserve (STOR) contract with the National Grid. Smart Grid enabled UPS such as the Riello Master UPS series, can also be connected through the same programme to generate further revenue.

Given the limited scope of smaller UPS systems to be contracted with the National Grid, uptake for the Riello’s STOR service has been unspectacular, but it is hopeful larger systems may sign up to the KiWi Power demand response programme, the likes of which may become increasingly attractive in the coming years as the UK’s power generation margins may be squeezed.

Borri makes UK debut

Italian UPS manufacturer Borri was perhaps the busiest of all exhibitors at Data Centre World, and with good reason. Borri made its UK exhibition debut at this year’s show, despite having been in business designing and manufacturing UPS systems for more than 75 years.

The firm had a number of new products on display, but perhaps the most interesting development is its new partnership with Turner Engine Powered Services (EPS). Borri is now the UPS equipment supplier and maintenance provider for Turner EPS’ diesel generator asset management division.

It appears Borri has wasted no time in helping Turner EPS win a critical power systems installation contract with the Northwest Ambulance Service. Taking centre stage at Borri’s Data Centre World stand was its two metres tall Borri B9000FXS, which it claims is up to 8% more efficient than standard six pulse UPS and can achieve up to 95% efficiency in on-line double conversion mode.

The transformer-based B9000 comes with an isolated gate bipolar transistor (IGBT) input, sophisticated tricore technology and digital signal processor applications. Being unveiled for the first time was Borri’s new ultra-efficient B400 UPS, which supercedes the highly popular B300 by way of on-line double conversion technology and remote intelligent UPS management software.

Borri also exhibited a transformerless, high efficiency B8000 FXS 20kVA UPS, which is capable of achieving efficiency levels of up to 98%. Rounding up an exciting time for the Italian firm, Borri also announced that it had received independent certification by TÜV NORD Cert for the B9000FXS and B9600FXS efficiency performance. The results show that testing, according to EN 62040-3 criteria, the B9000FXS and B9600FXS models achieve over 95% efficiency even at part load while operating in on-line double conversion (VFI) mode. 

Pnu Power

After several years of heavy development but scant business, Pnu Power, part of the Energetix Group, is very hopeful indeed of booking hundreds of sales of its Type SU4 compressed air batteries. Having conducted years of trials at various sites around the world, including telecoms applications in high ambient temperatures in South Africa and the United States, it is looking to standardise a 4kW system as an alternative to lead-acid batteries UPS systems.

Energetix is in discussion with UK transmission system operator National Grid with regard to becoming part of a three year framework agreement for the supply of products. Under such an agreement, due to be announced in July 2012, Pnu Power could supply around 600 SU4 systems over a three-year period.

Meanwhile, at the time of going to press, Pnu Power was set to commission the world’s first compressed air UPS system in a data centre. In conjunction with Socomec, Pnu Power has installed a 400kVA version of its Air-DRUPS (compressed air, diesel, rotary UPS) system at Co-Operative Financial Service’s data centre in Stockport, UK. Originally designed as a 1MVA system, Pnu Power is optimistic that the containerised system will find a home in environmentally-conscious facilities, but it appears it may have some way to go before it will be cost-competitive.

Eaton focuses on cloud computing

Eaton Power Quality went big on virtualisation and cloud data. Eaton’s data centre business manager Naser Ali seemed sure that cloud computing will have a big impact on UPS systems. Ali’s presentation, ‘Virtualisation and The Cloud’, outlined the clear trend from innumerable smaller data centre s to fewer, larger data centres, and the opportunities and risks that data centres face as a result. This trend to larger data centres will mean, of course, that UPS systems will have to grow even larger to keep pace.

The drawback of clouds is a heightened lag in transferring data from computer terminals in offices to the cloud data centre and back again. This lag, says Ali, means clouds are not the answer for everyone, but for those who opt to go the ‘server in the sky’ route will face extra power demands on their UPS systems.

To showcase their solutions to this problem, Eaton exhibited its latest 9395 UPS systems with ABM (advanced battery management) technology to extend battery life and Energy Advantage Architecture (EAM) to maximise UPS energy efficiency. Also on show were rack-based heat management products from the Eaton Wright Line range, which can help to cut data centre cooling costs by up to 30%. 

Eaton also showed off the new functionalities of its ePDUs, including support for Cisco EnergyWise power management, which allows users to define customised outlet groups, a power scheduling function for planned shutdowns, and mass configuration and mass upgrade of ePDUs. The BladeUPS provides a scalable backup power solution optimised for use with high-density blade servers: a single BladeUPS module can provide up to 12kW of power in just 6U of rack space. 

Piller unveils modified Rotary UPS

Piller Power Systems were on hand to unveil two new products, UBT+ and UBTD+ Rotary UPS that hit in the market this spring. These products are more tweak than transformation, but the firm claims the 500kW to 2 700kW modules cut losses by 25% to give over 95% efficiency at partial loads.

UPS Systems tells a fishy tale

UK-based UPS Systems continues to do interesting things with direct methanol fuel cells (DMFC). Having installed a 4.8kW DMFC prime power system to remotely monitor wind speeds for power utility RWE npower, UPS Systems has installed a system at the UK Environment Agency’s Woolston Weir fishery to monitor the movement of eels.

eelThe fuel cells provide power to telemetry and CCTV equipment at an ‘eel pass’ to monitor the endangered creatures’ journey upstream to fresh water. To provide power to the eel pass, UPS has installed an EFOY Pro 2200 DMFC alongside two load-carrying batteries hooked up in parallel. 

The DMFC acts as a charger to ensure the batteries are kept at optimum voltage at all times. The system provides continuous power to a water pump that oxygenates a holding tank where the eels are counted and checked. Critical Power has been invited to the site and aims to look at the Woolston Weir site in detail.

UPS Systems sees a bright future for direct methanol PEM (proton exchange membrane) fuel cells up to a 1kW load as a possible replacement for small gensets, as they can be started up and ramped up within 15 minutes. Given the extra costs, however, applications may continue to be restricted to remote and/or ecologically-sensitive locations where diesel fuel may be problematic.

BPC goes green

BPC launched two new product ranges at Data Centre World this year, the PowerPro EF 300 three phase UPS system and the redeveloped self-contained PowerTower 100 series modular UPS system.

The UK firm says the EF 300 series UPS uses the latest DSP (digital signal processing) technology up to a capacity of 120kVA with a minimum space required. By using the latest DSP technology the vulnerable, transformer based, interface circuitry is totally eliminated and replaced by DSP processing. 

As a consequence, efficiency, reliability and functionality are enhanced to levels unattainable with the old analogue technology, says BPC. With higher efficiency and a greater control of all the UPS subsystems, the firm claims the EF300 is suited for advanced enterprise computing installations for the environmentally-aware client. 

Meanwhile, BPC says the revamped PowerTower 100 series offers a low-cost, modular single phase online double conversion UPS system. This compact UPS can be configured as a parallel capacity system and by adding extra power modules can be upgraded to 30kVA. 

Mpower UPS informs of latest product range

1-46This British firm is a small fish but it appears to be thriving in a very competitive UPS pond. The company started up in 2005 as a UPS maintenance provider, but within a fortnight it was selling and installing new systems.

Last year it launched Turkish manufacturer Inform UPS into the UK, providing sales and service support for systems up to 300kVA. The products were on display for the first time at this year’s Data Centre World, and with an emphasis on competitive prices, the range should complement its range of RielloAROS products to a tee. 

European Data Centre Association launches

Lastly, the European Data Centre Association, (EUDCA), announced its formal launch at Data Centre World. The EUDCA aims to generate ideas that influence debate at technical, environmental and political level. 

Since September 2011, when the concept of a EUCDA was proposed at a meeting in Brussels, over 50 companies and individuals including Arup, Schneider Electric and Siemens have joined up to become founder members. 

Chairman of the Board is Bernard Lecanu, who held a number of senior executive positions in the components and cabling industries, notably with Siemens and Corning. An interim Board has been elected and has been working on a roadmap for the association to define what it will deliver on behalf of its members and the industry as a whole.