ABB & Green Unveil DC-Powered Data Center

A look at the new DC-powered data center built in Zurich by web hosting firm Green and ABB. (Photo: Green)

Advocates of DC power in data centers now have a new facility to make their case. Swiss IT provider Green and power conglomerate ABB today unveiled a new data center in Zurich that they are touting as “the most powerful application of DC in a data center to date.” The facility features a 1 megawatt DC power distribution solution for the 1,100 square meter (11,800 square feet) expansion of the its Zurich-West data center.

The DC system was engineered to Green’s standards by ABB with support from Validus DC Systems, a DC data center specialist which was acquired by ABB last year. Green and ABB say their performance tests found that Green’s DC power distribution system is 10 percent more efficient than for comparable alternating current (AC) technology, while costing 15 percent less.

Most data centers use power distribution systems in which AC power from the grid is converted into DC power to charge the UPS batteries, and then converted back to AC for the equipment. The loss of power through multiple AC/DC conversions has been cited as an argument for using DC power distribution. DC power distribution is common in telecom facilities but seen far less often in data centers,  and some vendors argue that high-voltage AC configurations would be a better approach than DC power distribution.

But Green is a believer in the potential for DC to deliver energy savings and improved efficiency. “The implementation of 380 volt DC technology in our data center is part of our long-term energy optimization strategy, a big step that has set a new standard in the industry,” said Franz Grueter, CEO of Green. “When fully loaded, the system will result in energy savings of up to 20 percent in power consumption from grid to chip and in cooling.”

“Across all our business areas, customers are asking for improved reliability and energy efficiency, and DC power is an effective solution,” said Tarak Mehta, head of ABB’s Low Voltage Products division. “Zurich West will serve as a global showcase to demonstrate that DC is a complementary technology in data centers as it enhances reliability while minimizing footprint, installation and maintenance costs.”

HP provided servers and storage optimized for high-voltage DC, including the HP X1800 G2 Network Storage System, HP DL385 servers, and the HP BladeSystem c3000. The company said these systems “represent the beginning of HP’s strategy to enable the enterprise IT portfolio with support for high-voltage DC.”

“Green was looking for an IT partner that could provide HVDC-enabled IT solutions to meet its specific data-center needs,” said Ron Noblett, vice president, Infrastructure and Storage, HP. “At the heart of HP’s Converged Infrastructure strategy is our commitment to develop new energy-saving technologies that can lower data-center capital costs, as well as ongoing operations costs and complexity.”

Green Datacenter AG provides data center services for mid-size and large companies in Switzerland, Europe and worldwide. The recently opened greenDatacenter Zurich-West is Switzerland’s first Tier III certified data center. A greenfield approach enabled Green Datacenter to build a state-of-the-art, highly secure and energy efficient data center for the most demanding needs.

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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  1. Elimination of the AC-DC-AC conversions should certainly yield efficiency boosts in the IT load power chain. It will be interesting to hear more specifics about this facility in a broader context, including how the DC distribution impacted construction costs.