Just about everywhere you look, you can see the data center of the future. That’s because it’s all around us — in our home offices, the retail stores we visit, the factories that make the products we consume, the warehouses that distribute them, and so forth.
Edge computing has placed computer infrastructure nearly everywhere. Infrastructure (servers, storage, networking equipment, and UPSs) powers the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) technology that enables real-time applications such as smart traffic systems and robotics in factories and hospital operating rooms. The data these applications use should be processed near the action to avoid the latency of traveling to a cloud for processing — and back to the point of decision.
No matter the type of data center, every piece of infrastructure has one common requirement: electricity. Without power, there is no data center. Digitalization requires electrification, and wherever electrical systems are running, there’s a need for electricians who understand digital requirements and the need for sustainability.
The electrical contractor’s evolving role
As the digital economy evolves, electricians need to embrace their fundamental role. Even batteries inside smartphones, laptops, UPSs, and electric vehicles are charged with AC power. That means somewhere along the line, an electrician plays a role in keeping battery-charged equipment running.
Electrical contractors need to evolve and understand where the technology is taking them. This means having an open mind about new materials, practices, and requirements that boost efficiency, productivity, and sustainability. It’s natural to resist change — for instance, someone on the job for many years may not like having to use an iPad to complete tasks. But resisting change means getting left behind.
Electricians need to be curious to grow in their profession and evolve with technology. They need to understand and learn the interplay of electrical and digital systems. Increasingly, electrical systems are controlled from central dashboards in smart buildings that also control other aspects of the infrastructure, such as plumbing and HVAC systems. Knowing where these systems are and how they interplay with electrical systems will help electricians get better at their jobs. It will also inspire better design approaches to create more efficient, resilient, and sustainable infrastructure.
Sustainability has become an integral part of data center design and operations. That means considering the efficiency of all the systems in use and choosing renewable energy sources whenever possible.
In some cases, large data centers might help alleviate power demand. For example, imagine a data center that uses a large generator or stores solar power in batteries. At some point, the data center may have surplus power that it can feed back to the grid for nearby buildings and residences. Such a practice would help improve a data center's power usage effectiveness (PUE) – a measure of how efficiently it uses energy.
Sustainability as a concept is about more than using renewable energy sources; it’s about people. People increasingly depend on the data center of the future, which is everywhere. And as such, they depend on electricians, who light the way for society. So as an electrician, embrace your contribution and continue to be open to learning and growing.
Joe Reele is Vice President, Solution Architects at Schneider Electric, responsible for bringing together the full suite of our products and services to provide complete solutions for our customers. He has more than 22 years of experience in strategic planning, business development, operations management, and system engineering strategies. Joe started his career with the U.S. Air Force Nuclear program and then lead one of the world’s largest financial data center portfolios. Joe provides strong technical and business leadership skills with the proven ability to analyze an organization’s business requirements, identify deficiencies and potential opportunities, and develop innovative solutions to meet the customer’s business objectives.