Thursday, 14 January 2016

Carl Turbitt, ABB's UK HVAC Drives Team Leader writes: “Big data” appears to be one of the “in” buzzwords right now. Whilst marketing types could probably argue all day about what it actually means, for the purposes of this blog post I’m just going to take it to mean “lots and lots of data”.

Because there IS lots and lots of data, and it’s growing at an exponential rate, doubling roughly every year and a half. In fact, it’s growing so fast that no one really knows how much there is; the most recent figure put it at 2.5 quintillion (that’s 18 zeroes) bytes of data generated every single day. That was in 2012.

All this data has to be stored somewhere, making data centres a virtual necessity for us to function in our daily lives. This data needs to be constantly accessible and so for a data centre, anything less than 100 percent uptime is unacceptable. This is why effective HVAC systems are crucial to ensure optimal environmental conditions for the storage facilities and prevent data loss.

The transfer of all this information generates heat, so in order to prevent failures the data centre has to be sufficiently cooled, and the air kept free of dust particles that could clog systems. Air conditioning is therefore one of the highest operating costs for data centres, requiring one watt of energy per watt used in computing functions. Typically, a data centre will use 100 times the energy of a similarly sized building.

ABB has created a range of variable-speed drives specifically for use in HVAC applications. With built-in PID control these can constantly monitor the ambient temperature and ensure that optimal conditions are met at all times, preventing any outages. These can reduce a data centre’s energy usage by 25 percent which, when you consider how much energy they require, is a potentially vast amount. Payback times are typically around two years, but in some cases can be as little as six months.

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