18th May 2023

Continuous power in a data centre – understanding the terminology

Data centre clients need continuous and reliable power to support servers, networking equipment, and other infrastructure that enables the provision of mission-critical applications and services for businesses and organisations. Any interruption or loss of power can result in significant consequences, including data loss, service disruptions, financial losses, and damage to reputation. For data centres, there’s more to ‘power’ than plugging into the grid, so those coming new to data centres can find some of the terms confusing. Let us unpick them for you….

100% uptime SLA

This agreement between our data centre and our clients guarantees uninterrupted availability of power, network connectivity, and other critical services. In essence, it promises that we will maintain continuous operations without any service interruptions.

Redundancy – our 2N power infrastructure

Power redundancy refers to the implementation of backup power sources or systems to ensure continuous and uninterrupted power supply to critical equipment or infrastructure. Redundancy is essential in situations where a power outage can result in significant disruptions.

2N power refers to a redundant power configuration in which the power infrastructure is designed with two independent power paths to ensure redundancy and minimise the risk of power failure - even if one power source or power distribution unit (PDU) fails, the critical equipment remains powered and operational. It provides a robust infrastructure for applications that require continuous uptime and cannot tolerate power disruptions.

Redundant power distribution units

Power distribution units (PDUs) are responsible for distributing power to the IT equipment – the power from each source is connected to its respective PDU. Each PDU is connected to different power feeds to maintain separation and redundancy.

2N uninterruptible power supply system

An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system provides short-term emergency backup power in the event of any disruptions to the main electricity supply. In a 2N UPS system, two UPS systems operate in parallel to support the load, with each UPS capable of independently supplying the entire power requirement.

Dual power sources

Two separate power sources, such as utility feeds from different substations or backup generators. These power sources are typically fed into separate PDUs to create two independent power paths.

Dual power supplies

Critical equipment, such as servers or networking devices, is equipped with dual power supplies. Each power supply is connected to a separate PDU, ensuring that the equipment can draw power from either path.

Load balancing

In a 2N power setup, the load is distributed evenly across the two power paths. This helps to balance the power utilisation and prevents overload on a single path.

Automatic failover

If one power path fails, the equipment automatically switches to the alternate path without any interruption or downtime. This failover can be achieved through automatic transfer switches (ATS) or intelligent power distribution units that detect power loss and switch to the backup path.

2N standby diesel generator system

Two independent standby generators are installed, with each generator capable of independently supplying the full power load. We have rarely had to call on our generators to provide backup power (in fact, the majority of the hours they run is for maintenance and testing), so our fuel use is low, but the generators need to be available in case they are ever needed. In 2022 we made the switch to environmentally-friendly Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) for our backup generators in place of red diesel.

Active/Active power distribution paths

Active/Active power distribution paths refer to a configuration in which power is distributed across multiple paths simultaneously, with each path actively providing power to the load. An Active/Active configuration includes multiple independent power sources, redundant PDUs, load balancing, and fault tolerance and redundancy to ensure continuous power availability. These provide a higher level of redundancy compared to single-path configurations, as multiple independent power sources and PDUs are actively delivering power to the load.

There’s a lot going on behind the scenes to ensure that our clients’ business-critical IT and workloads are always on and always available. Luckily, we’ve got all this in hand, so our clients don’t need to concern themselves with the power side of things. To see us in action, book a tour or get in touch to discuss your requirements.

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