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Solving the Data Center Power Supply Strain

Critical facilities can’t afford downtime, so they need to be proactive to avoid power shortages

By Jake Meister, Contributing Writer  

It’s not hyperbolic to say America, and much of the world, for that matter, is totally dependent on the internet. Schools, homes, dental offices, businesses, and even social interaction rely on this global system to function, and this practice will only grow more prevalent as the century progresses.  

As a result, data centers — and the magnificent servers, processors, and other technology they house — will have to get bigger and better. Unfortunately, this growth puts a profound strain on the modern power supply, which creates new problems that facility managers will have to rectify. 

Unlike the phantom data center in the sky, colloquially referred to as “the cloud,” the power problems facing these facilities are easy to spot. According to Rich Okoney, Global Operations Lead for Data Centers & Critical Environments for the international real estate service company, JLL, common power problems frustrating the facility management sector include: 

  • Grid instability 
  • Capacity constraints 
  • A greater need for energy efficiency and better management of energy costs 
  • A heightened need to plan, deploy, and implement strategies for managing backup power systems 
  • More risk management 
  • A greater need to be hyper vigilant with respect local power laws and regulations 

More issues require more solutions, all of which require not a passive, but proactive approach “[Data center facility managers] must constantly monitor the utility supply, manage their backup systems, develop robust contingency plans, explore alternative energy solutions, and continuously optimize power usage to ensure uninterrupted service delivery to clients,” says Okoney. “In order to have a successful and dependable operation it is critical that a consistent and comprehensive program is in place and managed to plan. The entire facility staff needs to be engaged and supporting the facility manager in order for this program to be successful. Training, planning and proper performance tracking is key to a successful utility management program.” 

Related Content: For Data Center Construction, Location Matters

Market expansion and high populations make power supply shortages particularly hard on American data centers located in Northern Virginia, Phoenix, and the Northeast, the latter of which is especially troubled by a lack of space and aged utility infrastructure. Okoney encourages data center managers in these regions to engage with local utility providers, research renewable energy options, and put energy-efficiency programs in place so that the issues can be proactively addressed. 

After supply issues plaguing data centers are addressed, facility managers would be wise to at least keep potential future challenges in mind. A few power-related challenges that data center facility managers could soon face include increased equipment density, the integration of renewable energy, and stricter regulations on energy usage. To prepare themselves, Okoney suggests facility managers conduct regular capacity management audits, learn about different cooling strategies and power management tools, stay on the lookout for changing laws, new tax incentives, and government programs encouraging more efficient energy use. 

“The global data sector is growing at a rapid pace,” says Okoney. “By proactively addressing these power-related challenges and implementing appropriate strategies, data center facility managers can ensure reliable operations while reducing environmental impact and optimizing cost efficiencies." 

Jake Meister is a freelancer writer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  

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  posted on 4/17/2024   Article Use Policy

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