Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

The Power Behind Your Internet

Since I got involved in building data centres over a decade ago, I’ve been a quite fascinated by all the big electricity things. I’m not an electrician, nor am I electrically trained, so there were a lot of things for me to learn about what makes a data centre tick behind the scenes.

Electricity, interestingly, is about the simplest part of the data centre. It’s still important, of course. In a data centre, electricity is simply upsized from anything you’re familiar with in your home. The switchboards are bigger, the breakers are bigger, and, I’m quite awed by the size of the electrical cables.

Electrical cables

I run two smallish data data centres. Tiny, definitely, in comparison with the likes of Google and Facebook. But even at this small scale, our power consumption is quite a bit. You see these electrical cables we have, well, twelve of these individual cables alone, not including the earth cable, make up just one power supply. To carry two power sources, we run twenty-four of these cables.

So all these photos are here because we’re doing some sort of electrical work now. It’s a sort of a modular in-place upgrade of some supporting services. From a data centre operations point of view, this is really quite exciting because everything is happening without downtime to downstream services. Yup, our IT services are still pretty much still operating within this site even with all those sawed off cables.

In case you’re wondering, these are how the power cables look like, the ones that supply electricity into a data centre, so that the servers in the data centres push out data for your Internet web surfing. ICT, or Information and Communications Technology, consume some 10% of the world’s electricity supply, according to a report from a few years ago. It’s probably more by now.

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