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Data Center Facilities Infrastructure
6 minute read

How Lithium-Ion UPS Devices Solve 5 Key Edge Site Management Challenges

This article explores how lithium-ion UPS solves common challenges edge site operators are experiencing today.

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Around the world organizations have enabled hybrid work and digital business models, products, and services at scale. The technology enabling many of these initiatives is edge computing. By using edge computing, data center and IT teams are able to process workloads close to customers and users, delivering an exceptional experience. 

However, that’s only the case if edge sites are able to deliver the continuous availability and uptime that organizations and their customers require today. That means there is more need than ever for reliable power distribution. Uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) meet this need, safeguarding edge and distributed IT applications by providing seamless power switchover and runtime when primary power sources fail.

Analysts estimate that 50 percent of enterprise data will be generated outside of data centers by 2023. By their very nature, edge sites are more challenging to manage than data centers. They’re extremely diverse, ranging from server and network closets to modular and mini-data centers. They’re typically remote and may be located across one or more regions—or even the globe. And they often lack standardization. Whereas teams typically follow standardized processes to purchase, deploy and manage equipment in data centers, edge sites may feature a wide array of equipment that may or may not be monitored and managed proactively. 

So what are the top challenges that data center and IT teams are experiencing today as they manage a growing network of edge sites?

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1. Maximizing limited budgets

Edge computing is so hot that global spending is slated to reach $250 billion by 2024. So it may seem perplexing to state that edge sites bear the brunt of limited budgets. However, after careful consideration, this statement rings true. Edge sites can be as simple as servers placed (perhaps unwisely) in everyday closets or integrated infrastructure placed on a building floor. Or they may involve dedicated micro data centers and prefabricated modular data centers with fit-for-purpose technology, power and thermal management. Whatever the approach, data center and IT managers are looking to stretch their budgets and improve total cost of ownership (TCO).

Most UPSs deployed at edge sites today use valve-regulated lead-acid (VRLA) batteries, which are costly to maintain. The internal battery in a VRLA UPS will typically need to be replaced twice over the life of the UPS. However, in warmer spaces, the UPS may require even more frequent routine battery replacements. The cost of a UPS battery replacement, including labor, is around 30 to 50 percent of the cost of a new VRLA UPS.

Whereas VRLA batteries typically last three to five years, lithium-ion batteries will commonly last the lifetime of the UPS. Lithium-ion batteries’ long life thus enables edge site operators to effectively avoid the routine maintenance required by VRLA UPSs. In addition, most lithium-ion UPSs come with a three- or even five-year standard warranty for added peace-of-mind. As a result, buyers can easily achieve TCO savings of 50 percent or more by upgrading from VRLA to lithium-ion UPS devices.

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2. Addressing the lack of onsite IT resources

Edge sites are placed where they’re needed, which may be far away from corporate and data center sites. Thus, many lack onsite IT experts and may even run dark. As a result, edge equipment needs to be ultra-reliable. If edge sites fail due to poor UPS performance, outages can significantly disrupt service to users, as well as result in expensive emergency visits from service professionals.   

Lithium-ion UPSs are a true set-and-forget solution. With their long life and ultra-reliability, they reduce the need for both scheduled and unscheduled UPS maintenance, decreasing ongoing servicing costs. 

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3. Avoiding unplanned downtime

Edge sites experience an average of 5.39 unplanned outages over a 24-month period, which last 45.4 minutes on average. Power loss is still the leading source of unplanned downtime, causing 37 percent of all outages. Data center and IT teams can’t afford to experience outages like these. Loss of edge service can significantly disrupt the customer and user experience, causing revenue and productivity loss.

High-performing lithium-ion batteries offer several minutes of runtime at full load and twice that at half-load, typically lasting two to three times longer than the full load runtime of comparable VRLA batteries. In addition, lithium-ion UPS batteries recharge faster, reaching 100 percent of their capacity in as few as two hours. VRLA batteries, on the other hand, can take up to four or five hours to change to 90 percent of capacity. Furthermore, lithium-ion batteries can endure up to 10X more discharge and charge cycles than VRLA batteries. These capabilities, combined with lithium-ion batteries’ longer life, add up to reliable backup power when and where data center and IT teams need it. 

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4. Tolerating temperature control

Many edge sites aren’t optimized for technology. Equipment may be placed in conventionally air conditioned spaces, which can harm performance over time. Examples include retail shops, schools, small business offices and more.

When exposed to elevated temperatures VRLA batteries become unstable and degrade, resulting in a shorter service life. Lithium-ion batteries, on the other hand, are much more resilient, experiencing far less degradation. That makes lithium-ion UPS devices ideal for installation in any edge location, but particularly those already experiencing challenges with VRLA battery reliability and service life. 

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5. Accommodating space constraints

Edge sites may have significant space constraints. For example, many customers want to reduce equipment depth or height. They’d like to use wall-mount or two-post open racks but may not be able to meet these requirements with typical UPS solutions that are designed for full-depth and four-post racks.  

Lithium-ion batteries offer higher power density than VRLA batteries. Manufacturers can leverage this capability to offer the same power capacity and run time, while reducing the overall weight of the UPS unit. Smaller and lighter, lithium-ion UPS devices help optimize rack and shelf space, while also simplifying handling during installation. 

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Conclusion 

As data center and IT teams scale their edge presence, they’re looking to ensure high uptime and availability of services, prevent costly business outages and protect IT equipment from harm. 

Vertiv™ Liebert® PSI5 Lithium-Ion UPS helps teams accomplish these critical goals, providing reliability, exceptional performance, long life and ongoing value. For example, Liebert® PSI5 offers nine minutes of run-time at full load and 20 minutes at half-load, helping teams achieve their uptime and business continuity objectives. Liebert® PSI5 is also backed by a five-year warranty, one of the best in the business. 

To learn more about Lithium-Ion UPS solutions, follow our Facilities Infrastructure Team or request a workshop to get start the discussion.