Last year I wrote a blog about open standards organizations like Open Compute Project (OCP) and Open19, and the power architectures that are emerging from these groups – specifically, the consolidation of server power supplies into rack-level power supplies. I also introduced a TradeOff Tool calculator that we had created to demonstrate the efficiency impact of different server power architectures. The tool shows that there’s a small efficiency improvement in going from internal server PSUs to consolidated 12VDC rack-level PSUs, and another incremental improvement going from 12VDC rack-level PSUs to 48VDC rack-level PSUs.

I want to address why we’re seeing this 48VDC trend.

Why 48VDC?

Simply put, it stems from the desire for increased compute performance. Take a look at the figure below from Google that highlights the last 40 years of chip performance (blue data points).

Source: Open Compute Summit presentation by Google (original data up to 2010 by M. Horowitz et al, 2010 to 2015 by K.Rupp)

In this chart, you can also see the different CPU design attributes that improve compute performance:

  • Frequency / clock speed – the green data points
  • Transistor count (density) – the orange data points
  • Increase the number of cores – the black data points

Smart city and communication network concept. IoT(Internet of Things). ICT(Information Communication Network).Historically, a limit was put on the CPU package power at roughly 150W (the red points), primarily because there wasn’t a need to go beyond this to achieve the compute performance needs, and it was a practical limit for air-cooling a 1U server.

While new processor designs continue to increase the frequency, transistor count, and number of cores, it is not able to keep up with the increase demanded by certain users. Because of this, people are now willing to consider a CPU package power increase in order to get the performance they’re after. In other words, we can expect those red data points on the chart to trend up again. Technologies like AI, ML, and big data analytics are driving more and more companies to consider GPUs, and along with that, they’re beginning to accept alternative form factors (i.e. chips with giant heat sinks) to liquid cooling.

VRMs Integrated Right on the Chip Package

Our Schneider Electric Data Center Science Center just published White Paper 232: Efficiency Analysis of Consolidated vs. Conventional Server Power Architectures, which describes the server power architectures and steps through the efficiency analysis findings. In the paper, we also provide details on why we’re seeing this 48VDC trend and how VRM technology changes are enabling this. With VRMs separate from the chip package, the number of pins that can physically fit on the board constrains the power. But now we’re seeing VRMs integrated right on the chip package, which significantly reduces the pin count. In a nutshell, with the same reduced pin count, providing 48VDC can give you 600W of power where 12VDC would have given you 150W.

12VDC vs 48VDC in the Near Future

The reality is once you have the VRM on the package, you can now feed it the highest touch-safe voltage possible (e.g. up to 60VDC). An ecosystem at 48VDC already exists with off-the-shelf components which will likely steer future designs to that voltage next. But, I think it’s safe to say that 12VDC will likely be the majority of deployments in traditional ITE for the coming years due to the cost effectiveness and large supply base of 12VDC VRMs. And 48VDC distribution at the rack-level will gain traction once costs decline and the supply chain becomes more robust.

Check out White Paper 232 for insights to our efficiency analysis on power architectures.

Plus, join the conversation. Is your organization looking at consolidated server power architectures, and if so, 12VDC or 48VDC?

The year 2018 was the year when significant breakthroughs in technology were devised. The year 2019 has more to look forward to. In the sphere of automation and technology, a lot of initiatives and achievements and promising industrial growth is expected.

  • IoT-driven predictive maintenance: Industries today have smart devices that are connected to the central hub. Owing to the control in the hands of the machine operator, they can know in advance if an asset is broken. In an IoT driven apparatus, it is easy to recognise which part needs to be replaced, or maintenance is required. These proactive repair and maintenance alerts are benefitting to both customers and suppliers. It is an asset for the plant as it is easy to identify and fix problems before issues turn into failure.
  • Focus on Field Service Mobility: The quickest and the easiest way to respond to service requests is to lay emphasis on mobility. To fulfil this, it is required to send real-time and offline data to field technicians via native mobile. By providing step-by-step remote guidance to the technicians, it ensures a direct channel of communication between the technician and the customer. This can be the first step in the process that offers better problem fixation rate.
  • Growth of artificial intelligence: Automation is one way to ensure better faster revenue. It not only reduces the cost of operation but also when the processes are controlled by artificial intelligence, the operation has the upper hand. They are now capable of communicating with the machines and quickly identify issues. Another advantage of AI in field services is that the plant has streamlined operations. They are able to prioritise work order, dispatch the right technician as per the maintenance or repair required and keep track of machine’s performance.
  • Data-driven delivery: With industries drifting towards big data and analytics, it is essential to understand how the data shows results. Monitoring data on the backend ensures that it delivers operational excellence and maximise service quality. Field service management also takes into consideration what are machines are delivering and after that judge if maintenance is required.
  • Make Field Service Training More Engaging: With Industrial IoT in place, the employees are taught and trained to operate the machinery. Owing to these developments, it is crucial that the people are trained to understand the information displayed on HMI. In case the information transmitted on the machine’s end is not in sync with the output seen, it is important to report maintenance in the SCADA Systems.

Schneider Electric India offers a complete set of services from design studies to modernisation. It also offers automation training for employees to induce them to the domain of automated machinery, HMI analytics and helps them understand the functioning of the machine. In the past years, the services have largely contributed to reducing the OpEx, lowered down the operational costs through data centres. In this year, they aim to set the bar higher and upscale what the industry could deliver in consideration to the product or service, employees and the end user.

According to a recent ARC survey, 93% of industrial stakeholders agree that both edge and cloud processing will form the basis of their industrial automation infrastructure. Market observers and analyst firms are projecting that the cloud computing market will reach $411 billion by 2020 and are forecasting that 50% of data will be processed at “the edge” by 2022.

These major trends will require industrial stakeholders to revisit how they are modernizing their operations in order to drive the new IT-influenced productivity benefits. A first step in achieving these greater productivity gains is to understand how concepts such as “cloud” and “edge” work within an industrial context.

In the IT view, “edge computing” implies data processing that occurs on-premise (i.e., processing not occurring in the cloud, typically occurring in local data centers). Another popular term, “industrial edge,” implies computing that is close to sensors and actuators in the manufacturing area, as close as possible to the production assets (typically occurring in industrial PCs and controllers). When both of these are applied together, they form the basis of the ongoing information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT) convergence in the industrial space.

Understanding edge and cloud drivers

There are multiple reasons for why edge applications are growing in influence across industries. First, because of the sheer volume of data being generated by the new wave of connected devices, it is too costly to send all that data up to the cloud. Edge computing can offer a less expensive alternative. Second, within certain applications, use of the cloud can disrupt performance because of latency issues (an interval of time or waiting period that is too long for data coming back from the cloud to be useful). For example, a blockage in a particular pump needs to be addressed as quickly as possible in order to avoid delays or disruption to production. The pump needs to be taken off line and repaired before it breaks. Besides latency, dependence on the cloud also runs the risk of a loss in connectivity. The time to reconnect could be too long and might result in the failure of a critical manufacturing asset.

In this new world of digital transformation, industrial stakeholders will succeed in maximizing digitization benefits by achieving the proper balance of cloud and edge resulting in cloud-edge continuum in terms of software and hardware management. Such a balance will require an analysis of the cost of each option and an understanding of the degree to which data will need to remain close to the production asset. For example, a cloud option could prove cost effective when piloting initiatives such as predictive maintenance. By starting a proof of concept in the cloud without incurring any CapEx, stakeholders can make an early determination as to whether such an investment will reduce maintenance costs over time.

On the other hand, a cloud option would be less effective in the case of an application that manages rapid production line changeovers. The reprogramming and reconfiguration of a manufacturing line or the ingredients of a new recipe (in a Food and Beverage industry scenario), can be improved by managing such changeovers with the assistance of edge computing. In edge versus cloud field tests, it has been demonstrated that up to 30 minutes in changeover time can be saved when edge applications are deployed.  In a scenario where an average of 10 changeovers occurs per day, the time savings and productivity gains become significant.

Finally, the cloud – edge continuum in the industrial domains require specific cybersecurity practices to comply with specific regulations addressing critical infrastructures and ensure business continuity. Processing data at the edge allows business critical functions to be carried out regardless of connectivity to the cloud, minimizing the attack surface and reducing the possible impact of cyber threats.

An end-to-end framework for optimizing the productivity gains

Access to an open framework of connected devices, edge control and application analytics can help to simplify the task of having edge and cloud implementations work in a complementary manner. Architectures such as Schneider Electric EcoStruxure™ allow for high productivity activities such as predictive maintenance, remote management of edge assets, and real-time optimization of process control to be enabled in a mix of cloud and edge environments.

To learn more about how edge applications are helping to drive increased productivity across industries, download the new Schneider Electric e-guide “Capturing the Business Value of the IoT Edge.”

Blog co-authored by:

  • Zach Tinkler, Business Development Manager, Panel Builders
  • Thomas Eck, Team Lead, Marketing Communications

In our last blog, we discussed the value of connected products in the Industrial Internet of Things, or IIoT. Developers and Installers have started embracing this trend and will continue as they increasingly recognize what connectivity means to the end users. To do this effectively, you need to understand what connected solutions manufactures are offering – both software and hardware – and which solutions can easily/effectively be integrated into their designs to meet the end user’s demands.

If you break it down, your customer’s operation can be segmented into three tiers: Connected Products, Edge Control and Apps and Analytics – each is critical for realizing an IIoT-based operation.

Schneider Electric provides a comprehensive offering based on these tiers, allowing you to integrate new solutions at any level. This includes the new designs you are developing and current systems you are modernizing within a customer’s existing architecture.  This is the essence and value of EcoStruxure for your business.

Let’s explore this in practical terms:

Replacing older or outdated circuit breakers with new technology, such as our MTZ breakers allows you to connect those pieces into the building management systems gaining insight into the operation of power cycles and loads within the system without additional downstream meters. This means easily incorporating the benefits of IIoT with EcoStruxure connect product, while reducing the total space requirements to manage your power.

Many end users are already requesting a cloud-based solution allowing them to remotely analyze and control their applications (e.g.: Spec 25). At first glance, many may think this requires a redesign of an entire control system adding time and expense to the project.  By incorporating EcoStruxure Machine Advisor, existing systems can provide communication without additional hardware.

Schneider Electric recognizes the challenges facing automation Developers and Installers.  EcoStruxure offers a manufacture-agnostic approach to help you deliver on the expectation of IIoT for your customers:

  • Connected products delivering operational data in real time
  • Edge control managing the process, optimizing as needed
  • Apps and analytics providing the agility to allow users to make decisions faster

By integrating easily connected components – without having to rip and replace – you can cost-effectively meet the customer’s expectation. By reducing both your bill of materials and the associated engineering and installation times, you can keep pricing competitive while maintaining your margin.

Welcome to EcoStruxure