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Microsoft Improve Data Centre Power Efficiency

Cost is always a big consideration when it comes to storing your data. Businesses are always looking for ways to slash costs while still retaining their efficiency; with the amount of data being stored only increasing by the day, innovations within the storage industry are welcomed with open arms.

Microsoft has announced a new way to cut the costs of serving power to data centres by using standard lithium-ion batteries, just like those found in electric cars. The plan, dubbed the Local Energy Storage system, was submitted by Microsoft to the Open Compute Project. This means that vendors can access the design and then manufacture it for their customers if there is demand for it.

Facebook set up the Open Comptue Project last year as a way to encourage collaboration on cost effective, no-frills infrastructure that can be sourced from a variety of vendors. While a lot of vendors differentiate on things that are minor or don’t matter, Facebook want to get rid of that attitude.

Microsoft says that the standard battery can replace the usual Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPSes) that provide backup power to equipment like servers. The USPs are implemented in order to provide power if there is an interruption to the main source, ensuring that the kit is kept running while the diesel generator takes a couple of seconds to start up.

Usually a UPS system will make use of lead acid batteries, but the problem is that these are bulky and requite a lot of maintenance. Microsoft claims that the lithium-ion battery system is five times cheaper than the standard UPSses, accounting for the cost to purchase, install and upkeep them during their lifespan.

They also take up 25 percent less floor space, since their installed directly into the server racks, which means that space can be used more efficiently – perhaps for more racks to increase data capacity.

The lithium-ion system is already being used by Microsoft in their workloads in multi megawatt deployments. The great thing is that the batteries can be replaced without having to shut down the servers and they’re suitable for data centres of any size, regardless of how many servers they have.

“[It] improves data centre total cost of ownership (TCO) by reducing UPS costs up to 5 times and tying expenditures to capacity expansion rather than upfront capex when building the facility, by reducing facility footprint by up to 25 percent, and by improving power usage effectiveness (PUE) by up to 15 percent,” said Kushagra Vaid, general manager of server engineering for Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise.

Facebook also submitted a similar design last year that it’s currently using in its own data centres, with Facebook’s director of hardware engineering, Matt Corddry, commenting that the industry has reached the point where lithium-ion is cheaper to deploy than lead-acid for a data centre UPS.

For more information about Microsoft’s new design, including detailed technical specifications on how it exactly works, be sure to read their principal hardware engineer’s blog post on Technet.

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