1. Ed, at
last week’s CFRT meeting you gave a brief description of your company’s history
and allowed us to view your manufacturing process in tours. Could you describe
your company mission and a little history? .
IEM is an independent electrical equipment builder with history back to 1950 when Frank Howe started producing equipment in a barn in Fremont. He remained fiercely independent during industry consolidations in the later 1950s and developed an approach to the business that allowed him to remain a market share leader in Northern California until the 1980s. His innovative process and very early adoption of CAD/CAM methods were key to establishing that leadership in Silicon Valley.
have tried to continue that independent spirit and to implement new technology
to grow our business beyond the local market with a focus on customers who want
and need specialized solutions to their power distribution needs. The efforts
of our 135 employees have resulted in revenues of over $50M last year, and we
are poised for significant growth.
We have tried to continue that independent spirit and to implement new technology to grow our business beyond the local market with a focus on customers who want and need specialized solutions to their power distribution needs. The efforts of our 135 employees have resulted in revenues of over $50M last year, and we are poised for significant growth.
2. As you
addressed our group, you spoke about the energy efficiencies of using medium
voltage power? Could you recap that here?
Most data centers require large amounts of power that the utility
company supplies at medium voltage which is technically defined as 2,400 to
38,000 volts. Data centers are normally provided with power between 12,000 to
34,500 volts. The normal distribution strategy is to transform the utility
power to a lower voltage (generally 480 volts) and to distribute large blocks of
power at that lower voltage.
Our view of power efficiency in data centers is focused on what we know — power distribution. Every time electrical power is transformed in terms of voltage or from AC to DC or DC to AC, there are losses which generally also have a heat impact where they occur. Our strategy is simple: minimize the number of required voltage or system changes and the result will be fewer losses. By using medium voltage further into the system (even onto the raised floor) that goal can be accomplished and gains in efficiency of 8 to 15% can be realized by the data center operator.
data center energy efficiency think of Direct Current (DC) when they think of power
greater than 220 Volts. Could you describe why it is not necessary in your
vision of energy efficiency?
DC systems over 48V are not
widely used in the sites that we have seen, so I am not familiar with all of the
implications of higher DC voltage systems. DC power does have advantages in
regard to synchronizing various sources more easily than AC; and larger AC to DC
conversion devices (an AC to DC conversion is ultimately required within the
server with an AC system) may well prove more efficient. At the same time, DC
power has its own set of challenges since it is far more difficult to interrupt
DC power than AC and simple things like the plugs to connect servers to the
system need to take this fact into account. In any case, the two strategies are
not necessarily in conflict since the final conversion can be made from the
medium voltage AC system to either a AC or DC floor distribution
long do you think it will require to bring the 4180 power into a mainstream data
center as a pilot, and will it take a decade or longer to gain acceptance as an
There is an operating 4160V system in a major data center which is in full operation today. The major issue has been the availability of distribution equipment that is more suitable to the data center environment and the associated operating needs. We expect that there will be significant interest now that such equipment is available, and I doubt whether it will take more than a few years for MV to be a common distribution voltage. The challenge for full implementation will likely be the availability of MV UPS systems that don’t require transformers.
understand that Square D, Siemens, GE and Cutler Hammer (Eaton) are other
significant players in your current existing product lines. When you roll out
your higher voltage cabinets, will that competitive landscape be significantly
different? Who else sells solutions along those lines?
All major manufacturers have existing MV products. All of those manufacturers have a strong market presence and loyal users. The manufacturers’ challenge will likely be to adapt their existing MV products which were designed for utilities and heavy industrial users to meet the new needs of the data center markets. Most of those manufacturers also have UPS companies which have a significant investment in 480V systems which will require major changes to adapt to a MV distribution system. I am not certain how those manufacturers will respond: whether they will respond with new products or try to resist any changes. We also know that at least some of the data centers will continue with their current 480V or 600V systems for expansion and new sites rather than re-train their personnel. Other users — and we hope there will be many of them — will be eager to get the operational advantages of a lower cost system that uses MV distribution.
HAVE A GREEN DAY!