Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Eliminating the UPS Efficiency Penalty with -48Vdc

The Green Grid recently released Quantitative Efficiency Analysis Of Power Distribution Configurations For Data Centers, which shows how different power chains from 480Vac down to 12Vdc stack up in terms of efficiency. This showed -48Vdc to have the highest efficiency for systems at 60% of capacity and below--in an idealized world.

This is true when a UPS is required--but what happens if a UPS isn't needed?

Say what? Who would ever want to deploy servers without UPS

There are certain circumstances where a UPS is not needed:

  • Services with sufficient geo-redundancy that a power failure at any one site doesn't have appreciable impact on the overall service availability

  • Lower-priority services for which an infrequent service outage would be acceptable

In situations like this, how does a -48Vdc system stack up? Let's look at the data in the report from The Green Grid mentioned above:

  • The best AC power supplies to go from 240Vac down to 12Vdc peak out at around 93% efficiency [Figure 31].

  • The best DC rectifiers (with batteries) to go from 240Vdc down to -48Vdc peak out around 96.5% efficiency [Figure 29].

  • The best DC power supplies to go from -48Vdc down to 12Vdc peak out at almost 95% efficiency [Figure 31].

Taken together, the 96.5% rectifier efficiency x the 95% power supply efficiency equate to ~91.7% efficiency, slightly less than the 93% efficiency of a pure AC to 12Vdc power supply solution.

However, this is using rectifiers with tightly regulated -48Vdc outputs designed to work with batteries along with wide-ranging inputs. This is a mis-match! It's understandable why this has traditionally been done (for applications needing battery backup), but it's overkill for applications not needing battery backup.

Since most -48Vdc power supplies can handle input voltages from -42Vdc to -56Vdc (or a wider range), think what could happen with a DC rectifier with a loosely regulated output well within this range. If a DC rectifier was allowed to vary its output voltage between -44Vdc and -54Vdc, the net efficiency of the -48Vdc system could meet or beat the approach with a straight AC power supply.

Without battery backup, a -48Vdc system could match an AC system; even with full-time battery backup, the -48Vdc system is within ~1.5% of the AC system without battery backup.

Next: the story gets even better when redundancy is considered...

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