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ER interviewed Mike Elms, managing director at Centiel UK, sponsors of the Data Centre Design and Build Product of the Year award, to find out his unique insight into the UPS marketplace and why the company chose to sponsor this particular category.

Why did Centiel choose to sponsor the ER awards in 2020?

In 2019, Centiel was shortlisted for three ER Excellence Award categories: Power Project of the Year, Power Product of the Year and Energy Saving Project of the Year, and so we felt it was right to ‘put something back’ by sponsoring the Data Centre Build and Design Product of the Year award in 2020. Sponsorship offers a great platform for us to join Electrical Review in rewarding excellence, innovation and collaboration.   

The ER awards recognise projects that embrace the latest in electrical engineering, display forward-thinking design and implementation and champion the highest environmental, safety and energy efficiency standards which are values very close to our hearts. As manufacturers and trusted advisors in this sector, we were keen to be involved in rewarding innovation, particularly when it comes to reducing environmental impact wherever possible.  

In addition, this year was the first time that Data Centre Review magazine has been involved in the awards and this enabled an expanded range of categories including new awards for products and projects, opening up the floor to the data centre industry. We are looking forward to networking and making new contacts as well as hearing about and meeting the people behind the projects on the night.

What makes an outstanding product in your view?

Products need to respond to market demands by addressing specific needs and providing measurable benefits to users in a timely manner. Although as sponsors, we are not involved in judging, those solutions that have been designed with the highest environmental and therefore efficiency considerations in mind will certainly be rewarded.  

What is Centiel’s history?

Centiel is a Swiss-based technology company designing, manufacturing and delivering industry-leading power protection solutions for critical facilities. The company’s range of class-leading, energy efficient, UPS systems offers the highest availability and reliability. Centiel’s network of channel partners and subsidiaries is rapidly expanding, providing class-leading power protection solutions worldwide. 

Although a relatively new company, Centiel’s team of designers have experience that covers the last four decades. We were responsible for the design of the world’s first three-phase transformerless UPS and the world’s first three-phase modular UPS.  

Centiel’s three-phase modular UPS solution CumulusPower has now been installed in data centres and comms rooms in over 60 countries across five continents, protecting more than 50 MW of critical power loads in locations including: the UK, Singapore, Australia, Germany, Spain, the Czech Republic and now the Channel Islands. 

What changes have seen within UPS industry over the last few years?

In the 1980s UPS were huge, and relative to today were big, noisy, inefficient machines. A 60kVA UPS in 1988 weighed 700kg and was the size of a double wardrobe. Although they were very well engineered, they were at best only 80-85 % efficient. No one talked about the need for energy efficiency back then. Certainly, the main driver for UPS design over the last 15 years has been efficiency; because of this, static UPS systems have now almost entirely migrated over to transformerless designs which reduce cost, weight, and improve efficiency.  

We have now also moved from mainframe to file server, to the cloud and now to edge computing. The rapid accumulation of data is driving change exponentially. All information is being logged. Most of it is useless but it needs to be stored somewhere. This will result in the continued growth in the data centre industry and the need for small edge data centres at our homes and offices in the future, to process and store the less important data while the critical information is sent to the cloud and the mega data centres.

What are main considerations when it comes to purchasing a UPS?

Organisations need to eliminate risks that may cause any potential downtime of business-critical applications.  Availability is the key metric; data centres need to be available constantly, with zero downtime.   

Untold financial and reputational damage can result from unplanned downtime and therefore availability continues to be the major concern for data centre managers and those working in critical environments.  

Why is availability so important?

Data centres need the highest level of availability possible to ensure their customers can depend on access to data at all times. In other words: systems must be available every second of every day. The probability that a system is operating, as and when required, is the true definition of availability.  

Availability should not be confused with reliability. Reliability is an important and related factor in power protection design and is termed as: the probability that a system will not fail. For example: a UPS can be extremely reliable, but when a fault does occur, then the system can fail completely and lose load power or transfer to bypass, leaving the load vulnerable. A simple power cut could then compromise availability, leaving the data centre without critical power.   

What changes do you anticipate in the market?

The move away from traditional lead acid battery as the primary energy store for the UPS will be a big change in the future. Li-ion has a number of benefits including: the ability to run at a higher temperature meaning that in many European locations this means cooling could, in future, be provided by the natural air temperature, if cooling is needed at all. This would result in significant savings on data centre running costs and reduced carbon footprints.

Li-ion batteries also typically require less than half the physical space of the equivalent lead acid blocks and less than 25% of the weight. In addition, 10-year design life lead acid batteries are normally replaced every seven or eight years. With Li-ion this is 13-15 years. 

How is Centiel addressing environmental challenges?

At Centiel we look at everything to reduce environmental impact by improving efficiency.  This comes down to tiny aspects like the length of cables for example and investigating differing types of semiconductor materials to gain the most efficiency from a system.  

As award sponsors we will be very interested to learn more about other innovative solutions which share our focus on availability, efficiency and reducing environmental impact.


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