Microsoft redefines Backup Power Eliminates UPSs

March 15, 2015 by Jeff Shepard

During last week's Open Compute Project (OCP) meeting, Microsoft Corp. announced its plans for a Local Energy Storage (LES) system using lithium-ion batteries to replace Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) for back-up power in data centers. The LES approach is designed to be hot-swappable, and is claimed to be five-times cheaper than traditional UPS, which uses lead-acid batteries that must be regularly maintained. And because LES is installed within server racks, Microsoft says it takes up 25 percent less space.

“Microsoft’s new submission of the Local Energy Storage (LES) specification introduces a transformative approach to provisioning Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) capacity - moving batteries from large datacenter rooms to distributed units integrated directly into the power supplies which are part of the server chassis,” stated Kushagra Vaid, GM, Server Engineering, Microsoft Cloud & Enterprise, in a blog prior to the event. “LES improves datacenter total cost of ownership (TCO) by reducing UPS costs up to 5 times and tying expenditure 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,” Vaid’s blog continued.

“The LES design incorporates industry standard commodity lithium-ion batteries (used in high volume power tools) to provide proven quality, reliability and cost benefits. At the same time, service availability is significantly improved by narrowing the failure domain to the chassis level and by integrating the UPS monitoring and controls directly with the IT management system. Microsoft is currently deploying LES in volume in our global datacenter deployments and this innovative technology is now available to the broader OCP community as well,” Vaid concluded.

Founded by Facebook, the OCP is committed to minimizing the environmental impact of infrastructure technology and energy consumption through continued evolution in energy and material efficiency. While traditional data center design often occurs in siloed components — a building, servers, and software — the Open Compute Project evaluates the influence of all components within the data center ecosystem, leading to optimized energy and material use as well as reduced environmental impact.

The Open Compute server's vanity-free design eliminates nearly 6 pounds of material per server, reducing the amount of materials that need to be produced, transported, assembled, and eventually, disassembled. "Designing out," or excluding, all non-essential features and non-relevant elements from the Open Compute servers allows for a custom chassis that minimizes the overall part count, accelerates assembly, and removes elements like a front panel, paint, and logos. Additionally, Open Compute servers can operate in a higher-temperature environment, reducing the overall cooling load required in a data center.

Facebook's Prineville, Oregon, data center integrates data center design and server design into one ecosystem, built in tandem, to leverage the strengths of both the physical structure and the hardware it houses. As a result of the Open Compute Project, the Prineville data center, which opened in April 2011, is one of the most energy efficient in the world. As of the end of Q3 2014, the Prineville data center had a power usage effectiveness (PUE) of 1.08 and the Forest City data center had a PUE of 1.10. These metrics represent data from the previous 12 months and are significantly better than the EPA's best practice PUE of 1.5 for the technology sector.

Facebook and the OCP is also committed to reporting WUE — Water Usage Effectiveness. WUE, which The Green Grid developed, is a ratio of Annual Site Water Usage to IT Equipment Energy. At the end of Q3 2014, WUE at our Prineville data center was 0.27 L/kWh and WUE at our Forest City data center was .42 L/kWh. Both represent trailing 12 month data.