Powering the New Normal: ABB Survey Finds 53% of Data Center Professionals Are Considering Power System Upgrades to Meet Increased Demand

February 2, 2021

The events of 2020 rapidly accelerated a global, cross-industry digital transformation, underscoring the mission criticality of data centers as the backbone of the world’s virtual economy. In fact, the data center market is expected to grow by nearly 14% in 2021.

ABB Power Conversion – a global provider of comprehensive, end-to-end power solutions in mission-critical environments – recently issued a new data report, “Data Overload: Powering Data Centers in the New Normal,” that explores the unprecedented demand on data centers in 2020 as well as long-term impacts that will shape data center operations for years to come.

Not surprisingly, 96% of data center professionals surveyed reported that demand on their data center increased in 2020, which could indicate why 53% of those surveyed are likely to consider power system upgrades to meet increased demand in the future.

“The impact of COVID-19 fundamentally accelerated the concept of mission critical. Overnight, businesses became even more reliant on the cloud to enable operations, processes and remote collaboration. This immediate transition would not have been possible without data centers backed by efficient and reliable power systems,” said Jeff Schnitzer, president, ABB Power Conversion. “Power is the ultimate enabler. Not only for rapidly scaling data center operations to meet exponential demand, but for energizing the ongoing digital transformation that’s the beating heart of technology and smart societies of the future. And data center power architectures are core components of this.”

Addressing increased demand: top considerations and concerns for data center operators

If there’s one known for the data center industry, it’s that demand will only continue to increase in a market that was already growing exponentially before the pandemic.

However, ABB’s survey found that data center professionals are mixed in terms of how they plan to respond and address demand in the future:

  • More than half (53%) of data center professionals surveyed are likely* to consider power system upgrades.
  • 49% are likely to consider building new data center space to meet increased demands in the future.
  • A quarter of respondents are unlikely*** to build new space while 49% are likely* to consider maximizing their current space to increase density.

Regardless of how operators address ever-increasing demand, the continued reliance on the cloud to power businesses, the rise of cloud-based business platforms and the growth of enterprise cloud hyperscalers – above and beyond the impacts of COVID-19 – are resulting in warranted concerns for data center professionals. Among them, it’s not surprising to find that services and maintenance was specified as the leading concern at 34%, followed by power usage (32%) and scalability (30%).

In an era where remote business continuity is reliant on data center uptime, managing data center power systems and having the capacity to scale-up the power architecture through system upgrades or greenfield builds are critical factors to meet increased demand. And having a trusted, reliable team in place to help manage data center power systems is essential.

Powering Data Centers of the Future

Now more than ever, data center operators must reimagine and reprioritize the power architectures at the heart of their facilities as a main factor for scale. According to ABB’s report, more than half (52%) of survey respondents are likely to consider direct current (DC) power architectures as right-fit upgrades to supplement existing power systems if they are upgrading or were to upgrade their data center’s power system.

Unlike a centralized alternating current (AC) UPS architecture, a distributed DC power architecture is scalable at the cabinet level, allowing power capacity to be purchased and added, as well as allowing power levels to be adjusted, with each cabinet as needed throughout its life cycle.

“A distributed DC power architecture is designed to scale, which is precisely what’s needed in a world where rapid, unexpected spikes in data and customer demand is the new norm,” added Vito Savino, wireline and data center segment leader, ABB Power Conversion. “And having a trusted team in place that knows and understands the nuances and criticality of data center power can help put minds at ease in 2021 and beyond as demand continues to balloon – especially with the rollout of 5G and the interconnectivity it enables.”

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