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Microgrids could unlock the data center's full potential

By Donna Donnawitz
July 21, 2013

Data center functionality is revolutionizing business by giving IT leaders the technology they need to facilitate flexible, scalable and efficient operations. However, running the kind of data center that generates this operational climate comes with a few caveats - basically, you have to use enough energy to power a small country for a few months. Okay, so I might be dipping into hyperbole a bit here, but the types of highly-virtualized, densely-populated and application-rich data centers emerging to meet next-generation business demands can put a major strain on the electric bill. In many cases, the strain is too great and companies end up limiting their technological functionality to keep costs under control

The answer to this problem, of course, is renewable energy. Let's face it, wind and solar power could be the answer to many global electricity issues if we can harness them at utility scale. But leveraging intermittent power resources at a data center scale is a different beast, and the solution to this issue could be microgrids.

Using microgrids in the data center
Imagine if an individual data center had its own energy grid. I'm not talking about a power distribution setup that connects to the utility grid efficiently, data centers already have them. I'm talking about a fully-featured grid that includes everything the larger grid will be able to offer when optimized with smart grid systems. This means power generation sites, real-time reporting, automation and control capabilities, transformer stations and the kind of network setup needed to support all of this. In the end, you are imagining a microgrid and, really, the solution isn't that hard to come by using contemporary technologies as data centers are already dabbling in the functionality.

The end result is a situation in which the intelligent microgrid setup anticipates energy demand, draws power from on-facility solar, wind and biogas farms and runs almost entirely on renewable energy. Of course, you also want to maintain the connection to the utility grid for an emergency, but for the most part, the data center can have access to inexpensive, renewable energy - freeing it to function at its full capacity.

Terminal servers and media converters are central to this microgrid vision. This kind of architecture will depend on serial, Ethernet and fiber-optic network setups. This can create an interoperability nightmare that limits functionality and creates performance challenges. Effectively using terminal servers and media converters can address these issues and get your microgrid running smoothly.

Perle's serial to Ethernet converters connect serial based equipment across an Ethernet network. The Perle IOLAN range of Console Servers, Device Servers and Terminal Servers feature built-in support for IPv6 along with a broad range of authentication methods and encryption technologies.


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