Expert Advice: Rethinking Electrical Distribution in Datacenters to Reduce Risk of Failure


Today representing between 1.5 to 2 percent of the world’s electrical consumption, how can we optimize power distribution in datacenters? What are the challenges? How can these changes reduce the risk of failure? Learn the answers to these questions in the following assessment made by Germain Masse, director of OVH Canada.



In 1893, the company Westinghouse, took the undertaking of deploying the first electrical network in the United States, exploiting the alternating current system advocated by the scientist, Nicola Tesla. As amazing as it sounds, this method of distributing electricity has not evolved very much since then. In more recent data center history, the same could be said, as little has evolved in this field too. 

Service providers obviously ensure redundancy of certain elements (UPS, transformers) in the distribution chain, increasing the availability of their infrastructures. Even so, the general principal remains the same. Today with data centers using between 1.5 to 2 percent of the world’s electrical consumption, how can we optimize power distribution in data centers? What are the challenges?

How can these changes reduce the risk of failure? Learn the answers to these questions in the following assessment made by Germain Masse, director of OVH Canada.

Economic Interest vs Reduction of "failure zone”

When we design a datacenter, we’re confronted with two types of logic. On the one side, there is a desire to segment power as much as possible, multiplying the number of “small” transformers and inverters, in order to minimize impact in the event of equipment failure. On the other side, this strategy adds to the installation and maintenance costs which ultimately costs the end customer. 

Today, the balancing point is typically achieved with the deployment of transformers from 1 to 2 Megawatts, installed upstream of a UPS with a capacity of 400 kilowatts to 1 Megawatt (note that the current generation of inverters are often comprised of an assembly of modules).

UPS are critical and have a large electrical capacity but force us to accept relatively large areas of failure, concerning between 3,000 to 6,000 machines (UPS are employed whenever a power failure occurs and it takes between 15 seconds to one minute to switch to the backup electrical supply and/or start the generators). This dilemma is a major issue for datacenters. OVH calls this area the “failure zone”. In the event of equipment malfunction, all affected servers are located in the same failure zone.

Depending on the type of architecture constructed, some users will prefer to group servers in the same failure zone (for example when it’s imperative that multiple servers must always communicate with each other) while others will choose to disperse the machines between different failure zones (for example, required for a disaster/recovery plan). To meet such needs, OVH offers to locate servers in the datacenter of choice (Roubaix, Gravelines, or Strasbourg in Europe; Beauharnois in North America).

In addition to offering the choice of datacenter location, we wish to offer even more precise choices to our customers by offering the choice of rack. This is a logistical challenge, but provides real value to users.

Founded in 1999 by Octave Klaba, OVH is an independent company that specialises in web hosting. It’s the number 1 hosting provider in Europe. OVH also offers related products and services, such as domain names, emails, and internet access.


Cloud Exchange Member

OVH
Cloud Exchange Metros
AMERICAS EMEA APAC
Amsterdam
Dublin
Frankfurt
London
Manchester
Paris
Stockholm
Zurich