Lithium-Ion Batteries Are Solving Data Center Challenges, but Still Need Evaluation

As data centers evolve, and cooling, space, and bandwidth requirements increase, administrators are looking at better battery technologies to overcome challenges, and lithium-ion batteries can go a long way toward solving those challenges, according to Data Center Frontier. Traditional lead-acid batteries are considered by some experienced administrators as the “weak link” in the data center’s power chain. They tend to be heavy, high-maintenance, and in frequent need of replacement.

Different types of lithium-ion batteries have their own strengths and weaknesses. Li-manganese is more powerful than others, and is safer than Li-cobalt, but has less capacity, for example, according to the article.

While the extended life, reduced weight and smaller size of lithium ion batteries can solve many data center power challenges, “care must be taken to match the proper chemistry to the application environment,” Data Center Frontier writes.

Concerns Remain

Concerns still remain about lithium-ion battery use in data centers, according to the Uptime Institute’s recent Data Center Industry Survey (via IT Pro Portal).

These concerns include safety and reliability. Because of the massive amount of energy contained in a lithium-ion battery, a malfunctioning unit can generate significant amounts of heat and, if not properly designed, the chemicals in such batteries can catch fire, according to an article by the Leading Edge Design Group.

And, as with any newer technology, reliability is still a concern. While large-scale facilities like data centers at Google or Microsoft have a high level of redundancies and so can experiment with new technologies because a failure in one system wo’t affect overall uptime, traditional enterprises tend to wait and evaluate reliability before moving forward.

Despite Concerns, Many Data Centers Consider Lithium-Ion

Despite the perceived risk of lithium-ion batteries in the data center, the Uptime survey showed that 10% of organizations have installed them, while 26% are considering them.

Cost of lithium-ion batteries has been another concern. A few years ago, they were more than four times the cost of lead acid batteries, but as production has increased in recent years, the price is falling and is expected to continue to do so.

Onsite Power Generation

Uptime’s survey also indicated that there is growing interest in on-site power generation as organizations increasingly consider reducing their dependency on the power grid. On-site power generation installations are above 10%, according to the survey; 22% are considering on-site power.

 

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