Doubts Linger over DC Power

Arthur Cole
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The DC-powered data center is the notion that simply will not go away. But whether that means it has true merit or is simply benefiting from wishful thinking is still very much up in the air.

Clearly, there's no shortage of people who insist it is the cure for what ails many an enterprise. So far, however, results have been mixed, with many of the perceived cost and flexibility benefits countered by unexpected difficulties. Undaunted, supporters continue to insist that with just a little more real-world experience, DC power will prove a viable energy source for the data center.

Don't believe the hype, says Schneider Electric's Kevin Brown. Even the research used to support DC power architectures is starting to look highly suspect, usually pitting state-of-the-art DC technology against aging AC environments. When compared against modern AC systems, DC can achieve, at best, a 2 percent to 4 percent efficiency gain, which hardly justifies the cost of ripping out one system and replacing it with another.

Still, that could produce significant savings should energy costs spike again, counters's Jeff Clark. Particularly for organizations that are building power and data infrastructure from scratch, DC is worthy of consideration because it eliminates the need for expensive power conversion and conditioning equipment, freeing up both capital and physical space for data equipment and removing another point of failure in the data infrastructure.

For this reason alone, DC power should get a fair hearing, according to The Green Grid. As a means to lessen demand from the local power grid and reduce greenhouse emissions, DC may prove to be a necessity in the near future - if not as a standalone solution, then as a supplement to AC. The technology has gotten top billing at the group's fifth annual forum next month in San Jose, Calif.

None of this overturns the fact that DC power is still an unproven quantity in the enterprise. On the surface, it seems perfectly capable of providing a stable, reliable source of energy. But until we start to see enterprise-class technologies in working data environments, it will remain nothing more than a promising set of numbers on the drawing board.

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