DC Power in the Data Center

Arthur Cole

Is DC power about to make major inroads into the nearly all-AC data center industry?

Some big money seems to think so, despite widespread concern over the technology's viability for the high-power, critical nature of enterprise operations.

GE just put down more than half-a-billion dollars on a company called Lineage Power, a move ostensibly aimed at tapping into telecom and cloud opportunities. However, since Lineage specializes in technology that converts AC power to DC, speculation is rampant that the company hopes to add DC power to its green data center portfolio alongside offerings like JouleX and SynapSense. In fact, GE already has a stake in DC power with the Validus DC Data Center system, according to ZDnet's David Chernicoff, and Lineage Power's solutions conversion technology should make it an easier sell to an industry that is steeped in AC.

Whether this proves to be a winner is anyone's guess, however. On one hand, DC has a lot to offer, including greater energy efficiency and lower up-front capital costs. You also get a more reliable power source and more space within the center itself by eliminating the need for a bulky UPS system.

On the downside, as United Airlines discovered when it attempted an all-DC facility in Denver, is that DC-compatible systems are a rare breed in enterprise circles, and virtually non-existent when it comes to storage. The company had to settle for a hybrid configuration-DC where possible and AC everywhere else. Although this actually proved to be both more expensive and complex than a simple AC solution, the company hopes to convert it to all DC when the technology matures.

Note that most DC cost comparisons assume only a single power supply, which is a major factor in its low initial price point. DC experts say reliability is so strong that a backup supply is not necessary, but if you decide to install one, expect the cost to rise by nearly half.

At the moment, DC power in the data center is like a drop in a rain bucket. But as energy concerns continue to mount in the face of ever-increasing data loads, who knows? Economies of scale might kick in to make DC power too good to resist.

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