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Grabbing a larger slice of the data centre UPS pie

Fri, 11/16/2012 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

3-34aCritical Power (CP): The acquisition of Chloride was something of a bidding war, but eventually you beat out ABB. Why did you acquire Chloride given you already had an extensive range of UPS products? 

Ken Poczekaj (KP): We had a pretty good market standing in UPS for most regions but we were a bit light in Europe. The purchase of Chloride allowed us to strengthen our global footprint and it brought us the most efficient transformer-free UPS offering in the Industry, as our Liebert products were focused on transformer-based UPS.

CP: How did the acquisition of Chloride fit with your existing structure?

KP: It was a neat fit as it broadened our UPS offering globally and it strengthened our solutions offering as we now can offer all of the required power products needed for the industry. Once acquired, we immediately began to roll the two businesses together. We have reduced the complexity of our product offering tremendously in the past 18 months. We’ve consolidated our offering of a total of 98 different Liebert and Chloride power products to just 47 altogether. 

The acquisition has allowed us to offer differently branded products of the same type of UPS. The Chloride brand is very strong in its core markets, as is the Liebert brand. We want to maintain the strong ‘under?branding’ of Chloride within Emerson Network Power solutions, and market and sell a Liebert transformer-free UPS system in countries or regions where that brand is strong. 

The acquisition has also allowed us to improve our service offering, which is a tremendous part of the value proposition. Chloride had an excellent service offering across Europe.

CP: Which products have you discontinued?

KP: A mixture of transformer-based and transformer-free UPS systems. This has been a challenge because Chloride offered both types of UPS. We’ve ended up keeping some of the Liebert transformer-based product offering and indeed have developed them further with the expertise and technology acquired through Chloride. We think it’s the best of both product ranges. 

CP: How do you develop new products within the new structure of Emerson Network Power?

KP: Emerson brings strong technical support on the electronics side as well as a strong supply chain, which helped us to build the best new product with the Chloride team, who are very strong in understanding the software and algorithms that need to be created for the latest UPS products.

CP: Data centres provide a key and growing market for UPS for the foreseeable future. How is Emerson Network Power trying to get a bigger share of the market?

KP: We had made a strategic decision around 2006 to grow our business to become a major data centre IT solutions provider including power, cooling, racks, infrastructure monitoring and service. So since then we have acquired companies like Knuerr to supply racks, Avocent for infrastructure monitoring and Chloride to fill out our power offering and strengthen our service offering.

Today the market wants a modular product, something scalable that they can build upon. Our customers don’t want to spend a great deal of capital upfront for a data centre with a 20% utilisation rate.

So we’ve developed a range of modular products with greater efficiency. We claim that our new Trinergy power product range is the most efficient available today.

CP: Several UPS manufacturers claim that their product is the most efficient. How can you be certain that they really are most efficient?

KP: Our UPS are tested by the TUV labs to IEC/EN/BSI 62040-3 standard and in addition we conduct hundreds of witness tests each year at our facility in Bologna under a load that mirrors the application. This test verifies the efficiency of the power that is coming out of the unit. By witnessing the test, our customers can then validate our claim of being the provider of the most efficient UPS in the industry.

CP: You recently launched Trinergy, claiming it to be a breakthrough product. But is it not merely another range of UPS systems with an ‘eco mode’?

KP: It is a breakthrough product because it still is the only UPS able to operate under three functioning modes while using the same hardware architecture and layer of control software. 

There are two traditional modes, double conversion and true interactive, where power is taken from upstream grid and the UPS is used as an active power conditioner. Energy efficiency in double conversion mode is usually 96?97%, reaching 97-98% in interactive mode, depending on the load and upstream grid network. 

The third mode is what we describe as off-line mode traditionally called the “Eco mode”. The power is taken from upstream and the UPS is passive. But Trinergy is different from other manufacturers’ UPS operating in eco mode, where the UPS essentially does nothing, as Trinergy has a power interface, which limits the input of high?voltage transients. This is the only offering in the world that we know of that offers this additional protection.

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A Trinergy UPS is modular and scalable from 200 kW to 9.6 MW

 

CP: How do you bring about efficiency gains in your UPS systems?

KP: On the components side we work closely with our suppliers to ensure the IGBTs (insulated-gate bipolar transistors) are of the best quality and designs available and that they work in combination with the high-frequency switching inductors that we use in the converters making our UPS systems highly competitive in terms of efficiency. 

But mostly it’s down to how we integrate the components into our system. How we run the software is key. With Trinergy we’ve worked on improving software to make the UPS unit more reactive.

3-36bThe industry wants us to reduce the time it takes to react to changes in voltage. At present, the industry standard is 10 milliseconds (ms). Trinergy operates well within 10ms in off?line mode. 

But if we continue to improve upon the industry standard of 10 ms then we can further reduce any concerns over the ability to run the system with the power interface, i.e. in off-line mode. That’s really what it’s all about. We are focused on making our UPS faster.

The Trinergy UPS is configured to automatically compensate some disturbances on the network by using the IGBT inverter as an active filter that can be configured both as a parallel or series active filter, while the load is supplied through the static bypass line.

CP: Do you see more data centre managers willing to operate in eco mode/off-line?

KP: Data centre managers have been resistant to operate in eco mode for mission-critical applications because of the reduced level of protection. However Data centres utilising our power interface design could see the energy efficiency rise to 99% with some protection.

The market is very focused on energy conservation. And the more focus there is, the more we have to prove the credibility of our power interface filters UPS. The witness tests in Bologna help to reassure our customers to operate the system using the power interface. 

CP: How do you ensure data centre energy efficiency with other methods than offering multi-modal UPS systems?

KP: For our customers a key part of energy efficiency is being able to know what’s going on with every part of their data centres all the time, which is where data centre infrastructure management (DCIM) comes in. 

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Following our acquisition of Avocent back in 2009 we’ve put a lot of resource into this area and realise the value that DCIM can bring when trying to reduce energy use. With a real-time infrastructure optimisation DCIM solution that mirrors how data centres actually work - such as our Trellis Platform - data centres can take action based on real?time information in order to maintain high levels of availability and optimise capacity, while operating at the lowest possible cost. We designed Trellis to stay true to the principles of DCIM, providing a single solution for unified management of IT and facilities infrastructure. This is much more effective and energy efficient than trying to force change to compensate for the gaps created by managing with multiple point products.

LIFE.net is the 24/7 remote monitoring and diagnostics system where connected UPS are under surveillance through manned service centres.

CP: Is the data centre sector ditching transformer-based UPS?

KP: There are a lot of engineers who prefer to use the tried and tested transformer?based UPS with constant monitoring. But over time, as more pressure bears on them to reduce energy costs and as we prove that our systems can react as required, more people are interested in our transformer-free UPS offering.

The conservative data centre operator has been used to transformer-based UPS systems but we are seeing a new generation of data centres more willing to operate with transformer-free UPS running in our power interface mode to benefit from the improved energy efficiency. Transformer-based UPS will always be here, it’s just a matter of which applications they support.

CP: What does cloud computing mean for Emerson Network Power?

KP: The key is whether the costs of cloud computing will become competitive for people to move to it and if companies can become comfortable enough to give up their data security to someone else. 

Huge, aircraft hangar-sized data centres, sometimes called hyperscale data centres, are a real trend. With hyperscale data centres, data could end up almost anywhere. That’s a real challenge. In general, people don’t care if their pictures are held on a server in Africa one day and in the Middle East the next.

But companies with market sensitive data? I don’t think they’ll be so quick to switch. The banking and financial sectors, for example, are understandably very reluctant to give up that protection of data. There will always be a need for data to be held within a nation or region for speed, systems engineering and security reasons. In the end it comes down to the market sector, economics and the appetite for risk. 

CP: What other trends do you see for data centre UPS?

KP: Availability is still key but as energy costs continue to rise, efficiency grows in importance. We are very focused on developing modular products that provide the highest efficiency available and provide for maximum uptime.

Many manufacturers offer modular systems but ours are modular to the point where you can turn them off and on while they are running, and you can also add modules while the system is running with no downtime as well as perform maintenance without downtime.

CP: What about high voltage (400V) DC power for data centres?

KP: Increasingly people are looking at DC for data centre installations. We are getting more requests for input and solution discussions concerning DC. 

In some applications it will work and for some it won’t. Just because it’s good for telecommunication applications doesn’t necessarily mean it’s always good for data centres. Some of our competitors want to push their customers in different directions but we want to be able to discuss both solutions properly and arrive at the best solution for each individual customer and application.

There will be data centres which have AC and DC power and we will have to provide both solutions. That said we are capable of offering both solutions and will support our customers needs with a TCO focus.

 

Emerson Network Power AC Power range showing the Trinergy UPS plus two new additions - the Liebert NXC and the Liebert NX, representing the first new offerings in Emerson’s consolidated AC power portfolio since Emerson Network Power acquired Chloride in September 2010.

 

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