Big data, big business

For ABB, the world’s hunger for new data centers equals an opportunity to make a difference

In the fields of central Iowa, huge steel, concrete and glass monoliths are rising from the corn.

Much of the region’s artificial brainpower will soon hum inside, aided in part by ABB equipment, and the future promises to bring more of the same to fields around the world. Possibly, much more.

Data centers are among the fastest growing elements of the information age.

Loosely described, a data center is a large shell with a tightly controlled environment filled with interlinked computers. Collectively, the world’s data centers hold the servers that power the information cloud used billions of times a day by everything from cell phones to company computers to home security systems.

The world’s centers are expected to serve more than 20 billion “connected devices” by 2025, up from an estimated 8 billion today. Already in 2016, the world’s data centers processed 7,744 tweets per second, along with 62,388 Google searches and more than 2.6 million emails. Internet traffic alone has surpassed 1 billion terabytes – enough to process about 5,000 times the words ever spoken by mankind.

All of that data, of course, rides on electricity, and ABB is here to give it the road to travel on.

To function effectively with very little, if any, downtime, a data center needs reliable power supplies, process controls that can minimize energy use and detect hot spots, efficient switchgear and miles upon miles of reliable cabling and connections.

About 40 percent of the total cost of a typical new data center is invested in power delivery, routing and controls (the rest is mostly spent on cooling systems, engineering and construction labor). In the power delivery arena, ABB supplies almost everything, including grid connections, monitoring and control systems, medium voltage distribution, uninterruptible power supplies and batteries, low voltage distribution and cabling, giving clients a virtual one-stop opportunity to wire a center with a reliable, low-maintenance power system.

Combined with the technical expertise of ABB Ability™, the opportunity is global.

All factors came into play when ABB was approached recently to install a new 1 megawatt ‘TriLine’ distribution system with several DPA 500 uninterruptible power systems in an expanding Serverius data center in The Netherlands. The project also included installation of the world’s first touch-safe busbar system — the ABB SMISSLINE TP — with its safe, easy-to-install plug-in modules, and an ABB Circuit Monitoring System to monitor and analyze energy consumption.

Meanwhile, in the fields of Iowa, ABB’s low voltage installation products are helping to fuel a data center building boom, with sales to construction contractors aided by a key distributor.

For just one building project in West Des Moines, a $1.26 billion monster that started rising from the ground in 2014, Thomas & Betts, a member of the ABB Group, has sold more than $1 million worth of Color-Keyed connectors, Blackburn grounding equipment and tooling, Carlon® enclosures, Elastimold® connections and Superstrut™ cable tray systems through local sales agent Midwest Equipment Company and distributor Van Meter, Inc.

The contract was secured based on ABB and Van Meter’s ability to help write product specifications for the building and do onsite training. It also depended on Van Meter’s willingness to stock a huge amount of product to support the project’s demands.

Occasionally, a little flexibility and old-fashioned inventiveness helped, too: when tooling dies went on back-order, managers from Thomas & Betts rustled up die kits to keep the project supplied until the production order came through.

Ultimately, as is often the case with installation products, great customer service carried the day. That is perhaps best heard through Van Meter regional sales and operations coordinator, Nathan Graham’s own words.

“Midwest Equipment and Thomas & Betts have been the best suppliers to work with,” he told us. “We have put them through a number of trials including scheduling and expediting product, working to find new solutions, requesting technical answers for special instances as well as servicing and certifying a large amount of tooling. Every time we called on Midwest Equipment and T&B, we were answered with informative professional help that kept a large number of people supported.”

We love to hear that kind of praise coming from a major customer, because it spells success going forward.

From ABB’s perspective, the ability to provide quality equipment to the core of the world’s future technology is deeply satisfying. We understand that intelligent data needs intelligent power, and we focus on delivering the most flexible, reliable and intelligent data center solutions for our customers, ensuring their businesses run efficiently and safely 24 hours a day.

At the end of the day, that helps to make the world a better place for all of us.



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  • Ciaran Flanagan

    Very interesting article , we get blinded by the big ticket items sometimes and fail to notice the neat and elegant solutions to more humble challenges ... like construction efficiency ... and we appreciate the positive feedback from the customer too !!