The Raritan Blog

Data Centers are Getting Denser and Smarter: Here’s How Facility Managers Can Keep Up

May 28, 2024

The pressure is on for data centers to evolve to meet the demands of emerging technologies. Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), the Internet of Things (IoT), and other compute-heavy technologies are at the forefront of a push to increase density and intelligence inside data centers. A researcher at Omdia describes the transition as turning data centers “from a compute and storage factory into an AI factory.” This will require data center operators to reimagine existing facilities and design new ones for higher density, greater efficiency, elevated reliability and resiliency, and enhanced sustainability.

For both new and existing facilities, the question of how to meet the needs of tomorrow’s data centers boils down to power. Power quality and distribution are the foundation upon which all this exciting new technology depends. Critical power monitoring equipment, intelligent rack PDUs and track busway combine to create the ideal trifecta to establish a strong, future-proof foundation.

The Downtime Dilemma: How Power Quality Plays a Role 
Data centers are an always “on” operation, and downtime can be extremely devastating. Outages can cost from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars, and avoiding them remains a challenge for the industry. The Uptime Institute found in its 2023 survey that 60% of data center operators had experienced outages in the previous three years, with on-site power issues being the primary cause of the most significant ones. Often overlooked in mitigating outages is the role that power quality plays and how failure to effectively monitor and manage it can lead to downtime and equipment damage.

Data center equipment is very sensitive to fluctuations in power. Common sources of power quality problems are voltage sags and swells, harmonic distortion and transients. This sensitivity is compounded by the fact that equipment in the facility itself can cause power disturbances in the voltage waveforms. Examples include non-linear switch mode power supplies used for servers, switches and storage systems, lighting ballasts and UPS inverters that turn DC power back into AC. The introduction of new High Performance Computing (HPC) equipment, such as AI clusters, raises the stakes for data center operators to engage in power quality monitoring (PQM) and proactively address power quality issues.

PQM Offers Granular Visibility: Role of Next-Gen Intelligent Rack PDUs
Equipment that enables constant PQM at the device level will help alleviate downtime and other complications associated with power quality issues. The newest generation of intelligent rack PDUs enables the visibility and control that data center operators need. Legrand’s intelligent rack PDUs, offered under the Server Technology brand as the PRO4X and the Raritan brand as PX4, are all-in-one solutions that offer industry-leading visibility, reporting and alerting for power metrics and events at the cabinet, as well as best-in-class flexibility to meet and anticipate future requirements. Engineered for mission-critical uptime, the PRO4X and PX4 revolutionize capacity planning, workload optimization, environmental monitoring, physical and digital access control and uptime initiatives. They offer a simple installation process that does not require special tools, high-density outlet support, seamless integration with existing DCIM or BMS solutions and the most accurate real-time visibility of power quality and unparalleled security. 

Achieve Higher Density With Track Busway Innovations 
Of course, the high-capacity chips and other equipment needed to support AI and other emerging tech will require massive amounts of power, which is astonishing considering the already high demands of the data center industry. The growth will not come all at once, but it will be exponential. Precedence Research forecasts that the global AI market will increase from $454 billion in 2022 to $2.6 trillion by 2032. With that growth will come an even greater spike in data center energy usage. The International Energy Agency (IEA) believes the industry’s total electricity consumption may double to over 1,000 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2026 compared to 460 TWh in 2022.

As a result, rack power densities will expand correspondingly from today’s high end of 20 kW to  40 kW and beyond. In extreme cases, data center operators may have to achieve densities of 80 kW to 200 kW per rack. Supporting these ever-higher-density racks will require power distribution systems that are reliable, flexible and able to adjust to future needs.

Starline Track Busway is one of the most efficient power distribution systems available. The overhead design avoids the problems that clusters of wires can cause at the floor level, including lower airflow and tripping hazards. Track busway combines technical reliability, extreme versatility and support for higher densities into one product, and is available in various sizes, from 40 to 1250 amps with 3-phase systems rated up to 600Vac or 600Vdc. The system significantly reduces installation time and labor compared to busduct and pipe and wire products. Perhaps most importantly, Starline Track Busway is highly flexible and able to be configured and reconfigured without power interruptions as density requirements accelerate.

Bring It All Together With Critical Power Monitor 
The element that brings it all together is Starline’s third generation of Critical Power Monitor products, the M70 CPM. This revenue-grade energy monitoring system gives data center managers the real-time data they need to optimize the performance of their electrical infrastructure. It offers high granularity at the power feed, branch-circuit level and stand-alone enclosure. The meter incorporates a range of features, including groundbreaking temperature monitoring, audible alarms and a swiveling display for convenient visibility from the floor. Additionally, it has the most comprehensive communication protocol options currently available. 

Keep Up With Pace of Innovation 
As data centers continue to get denser and smarter, facility managers need advanced tools to navigate these challenges effectively. The PRO4X and PX4 intelligent rack PDUs, Starline Track Busway and M70 CPM solutions are designed to empower data center operators by giving them the tools they need to ensure reliable, efficient and scalable power management. By embracing these technologies, data center managers can stay ahead of the curve, optimizing their facilities to thrive in an era of high density and high-power usage. To learn more, download our whitepaper on high-density data center design here

To inquire about Legrand’s suite of data center enablers, contact us here