Future-proofing UPS investment

Future-proofing UPS investment

Feb 6, 2014

Opinion Piece – Marco da Silva, General Manager of Jasco Power Solutions

10 February 2014  ~ As companies increasingly look to shift technology spend from once-off capex investments, to a more manageable operational expense, the field of Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) systems is rapidly evolving. Modular UPS systems is an emerging trend gaining traction in many industry verticals – and not just within the data centre environment.

In contrast to monolithic or classical UPSs (also known as a tower-type UPSs), modular systems are designed to flexibly grow as a company’s power requirements increase over time. But aside from this obvious scalability aspect, modular UPSs have a number of other attractive benefits.

Each ‘module’ weighs about nine kilograms, making the transportation and installation of new modules a very simple task. New modules are ‘hot-swappable’ and can be added without any risk or interruption to the critical load. And because no specialised skills are required, they are simple and cost-effective to configure, ensuring that each one is running at optimum levels of capacity and that load is balanced throughout the system.

Each module can operate independently of each other and without support the main controller, each module is made of independent rectifiers and module systems and can be configured as 3/1,1/3 or 1/1, this is true flexibility the market. The UPS does not require batteries to be connected which allows for black starts, unlike traditional UPS’s which require DC connection to power up. In the event of a technical error occurring on any of these components, the repair is isolated to one specific module – meaning that there is no impact on the broader UPS system, and that repair costs are minimised.

So, by adopting a “pay as you grow” approach to one’s UPS system, a company is able to avoid having to over-capacitate at an early stage. Scaling up, or down, as requirements change means that energy costs are minimised and the environmental impact is reduced.

For many companies, and particularly for data centre providers, the most attractive advantage of this is the floor space that gets freed up. The extra space can be rented out as rack space, or used for other revenue-generating activities. From a financial perspective, the fact that a large initial lump sum investment is negated means a company can also divert these unused financial resources to other profit centres within the business. So the core benefits of modular systems then start to have a positive spiralling effect on the entire organisation.

As with any new technology, many South African organisations have been somewhat sceptical to embrace modular systems, but the tide is now slowly turning, as the technology matures and the benefits start to become clear. Clients are realising the importance of partnering with the right ICT provider. Local customisation that takes into account specific client needs and ensures maximum availability and reliability is a key element of any modular deployment.

While at the moment it is mostly the early-movers who are benefitting from the flexibility, scalability and cost-efficiency of modular UPSs; as the technology gains more and more momentum, it is expected to move from being a niche, leading edge innovation, into the mainstream.