Why rightsizing your UPS should be part of your data centre modernisation plan


By Wendy Torell | Senior Research Analyst, Science Center, Schneider Electric

Companies that overlook fundamental data centre modernisation practices of their physical IT infrastructure systems run the risk of unplanned downtime that can cause serious disruption to critical business processes. Uptime Institute found that almost one third (31%) of enterprises experienced an IT downtime incident or severe degradation of service in the past year. Unplanned downtime is also expensive. Uptime Institute highlighted that around 33% of outages reported costs over $250,000.

Neglecting to modernize the data center also means that organizations are failing to take advantage of technological advances that make data centers simpler, more efficient, easier to manage, and more cost-effective to operate. As IT demands change and infrastructure ages, the opportunity to get significant benefits from modernization exists.
As physical infrastructure systems approach end-of-life, the risk of downtime increases. The options for data center managers are either to modernize or outsource business functions to cloud or colocation service providers. There are three key domains that must be addressed when considering modernizing your data center: equipment hardware (electrical and mechanical), software management systems, and operations and maintenance programs. In this post, we will focus on uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs).

Rightsizing Your Data Center UPS
Much like replacing an old furnace in your house, upgrading your data center’s UPS(s) can provide not only increased reliability, but also increased efficiency and cost savings. Data center workloads (and therefore capacity needs) of 10 years ago are likely to be very different than today. They may have increased or decreased substantially based on a variety of factors, including mergers and acquisitions that boost the workload, virtualization technologies that reduce the physical server footprint, and cloud migration, which enables companies to consolidate their on-premise data center operations.
Organizations need to right-size their UPS(s) based on current and future capacity requirements. We developed a tool – Schneider Electric’s three phase UPS modernization OpEx calculator – to help organizations determine whether to keep an aging UPS or replace it based on their current UPS costs and their new capacity needs.
With easy-to-use dropdown menus, data center managers can plug in the name, model, and size of their existing UPS, factor in maintenance and electricity expenses, and toggle the dials to measure the savings that could be achieved over a 10-year span by moving to a smaller and/or more efficient model.
For example, a company that is shifting applications and storage to the cloud may consider downsizing their existing 240 KW UPS to a smaller, more efficient 100 KW model. The tool demonstrates how that company can save nearly $150,000 over 10 years. Below is a screenshot of the UPS OpEx calculator. If your load requirements have decreased as in this scenario, it is generally going to result in significant savings.

OpEx calculation on shifting from 240 KW to a 100 KW UPS model.
New technology in many cases simplifies operations and offers feature enhancements that should factor into the decision as well. A UPS with lithium-ion batteries (li-ion) is an example of a technology improvement compared to older UPSs with VRLA batteries. Li-ion technology provides longer battery life expectancy, which means lower maintenance and parts cost, and also a 50-80% smaller footprint, and three times less weight.
Tactical Considerations for Replacing a UPS
Once an organization has decided to replace its aging UPS with a more efficient, modern, and right-sized model, a variety of practical issues need to be taken into account so that the replacement goes smoothly.

These considerations should include selecting a replacement UPS that matches the existing infrastructure in terms of the physical footprint (it has to fit in the space available), along with ensuring it has the right input/output voltage to connect with the site’s switchgear. Also, make sure the UPS is IoT-enabled. By instrumenting the UPS with IoT sensors and connecting it to your data center management software platform, administrators can remotely monitor and manage the device. Of course, notify everyone who could be impacted and schedule the replacement during a planned maintenance window. While the work is being completed, ensure that there is a plan in place to transfer mission-critical workloads to another power source. Lastly, don’t forget to update these assets in management software and operations documentation.

Data Center Modernization Framework
We’ve got additional resources if you need more guidance on replacing your data center UPS, as well as best practices for a data center modernization strategy. For a comprehensive perspective, read our White Paper 272: A Framework for How to Modernize Data Center Facilities Infrastructure.


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