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ABB Designs DC-Powered Data Center, Rutgers Builds Solar-Powered Micro-Data Center

Swiss power company ABB and IT firm Green recently unveiled a data center expansion in Zurich that uses direct current technology, not the more common alternating current, for electric transmission.

ABB engineered the DC system for Green in an effort to reduce the number of power conversions and increase the efficiency of its data center expansion. Data centers, which are filled with equipment, like servers that run on DC batteries, typically use power distribution systems in which AC from the grid is converted to DC to charge UPS batteries. It’s then converted back to AC for the equipment. Power is lost during these conversions, reducing the efficiency of the data center.

Performance tests showed the Green’s DC power distribution system is 10 percent more efficient than in comparable AC technology, the companies said. Investment costs for the system were 15 percent lower than for an AC system.

Researchers at Rutgers University School of Engineering are seeking ways to improve the efficiency of data centers as well. Instead of employing DC power technology, the researchers are using solar power.

Contractors have installed 16 polycrystalline solar panels on the roof of a computing facility located in the School of Engineering building. This solar-powered micro-datacenter project, known as Parasol, will help researchers study how to effectively manage computing and data processing with solar-generated electricity.

The project was funded, in part, by more than $1.5 million in National Science Foundation grants. Rutgers Computer Science Professor Ricardo Bianchini, who is leading the project with professor Thu D. Nguyen, also is directing computer scientists from three other universities using a three-year, $1.5 million grant from Google to assess energy use in big data centers.

Researchers at EPFL in Switzerland also are working on ways to improve efficiency of large data centers by developing a device that monitors and saves energy. The device was developed in conjunction with Credit Suisse, which has used it to on its server racks.

Researchers at the Embedded Systems Laboratory at EPFL devised a power management tool that achieves at least 30 percent and up to 50 percent energy savings, ESL Director David Atienza said. The Power Monitor System and Management tool allows users to monitor and track the power consumption of a data center. It also can be used to distribute the workload among several servers.

Picture of Parasol project by Rutgers University

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